Student athletes remember beloved Connally High football coach who died from COVID-19 Tuesday

Education

PFLUGERVILLE, Texas (KXAN) β€” High school student athletes are posting tributes of Connally High School Coach Todd Schonhar after his death from COVID-19 early Tuesday.

Julia Schonhar, Todd’s wife, said he battled the virus for several weeks in the hospital and was on a ventilator. She said it is still unclear how he contracted it to begin with.

The school district confirmed his passing as it expressed sympathy to Schonhar’s family and those he worked with.

For the past 3.5 years, Todd Schonhar has been a valued and beloved member of the Pflugerville ISD and Connally High School family. We are deeply saddened to hear of his passing and extend our sincerest condolences to Mr. Schonhar’s family and all those he touched throughout his teaching career.

Pflugerville Independent School District

The Clemson Tigers, who Schonhar played for from 1982-86, confirmed he died from the coronavirus in a press release. He was 57 years old.

Schonhar earned letters in 1985 and 1986 and was named to the Academic All-ACC team in 1986 before his graduation in the spring of 1987, the Tigers said.

The team said he is originally from South Carolina and is survived by his wife, who was a former Clemson cheerleader.

Todd Schonhar, Connally High football coach, died from COVID-19 early Tuesday, according to the Clemson Tigers. He played for the team back in the 80s. (Clemson Tigers Photo)
Todd Schonhar, Connally High football coach, died from COVID-19 early Tuesday, according to the Clemson Tigers. He played for the team back in the 80s. (Clemson Tigers Photo)

His student-athletes remembered him fondly and said he was much more than just a coach to them.

“It wasn’t about football to him. It was about life, really. How to become a man,” said Demetris Gardner, a senior.

“He would keep motivating you to come up and give him what he sees. He saw a lot in us,” said McAnthony Everest, a senior.

Todd Schonhar, Clemson class of 1987, and his wife Julia Schonhar. (Courtesy: Julia Schonhar)

Junior Justin Santos called him tough, but said he ultimately cared about each student’s well-being. Julia Schonhar agreed, calling him “a player’s coach” who wanted to help them grow into men.

“It was the worst feeling in the world to hear that one of the coolest guys I know has passed away,” Santos said. “A guy that is so strong mentally and has a will to keep fighting, no matter what, I just didn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it.”

Everest, Gardner and Santos all said they plan to increase their level of COVID-19 preparedness and safety. Everest said he hugged his mom a bit tighter and expressed his love to her. Gardner said he previously felt untouchable, but Schonhar’s death showed him that everyone is vulnerable. And Santos said he will be more diligent in wearing a mask and sanitizing his hands. He plans to encourage his friends to do the same.

“I gotta start following more of these safety protocols, because not only could I get it, I could be a carrier and hand it off to someone else,” Santos said. “I definitely don’t want this for anybody else and I don’t want it for my family.”

Reach KXAN’s Education Reporter Alex Caprariello by email at alexc@kxan.com or by phone at 512-703-5365, or find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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