MARSHALL, Texas — Former East Texas Baptist golf coach Tyler James was one of the nine killed in Tuesday night's fatal crash.
The University of Southwest men's and women's golf team was heading home from a golf tournament in Midland when a pickup truck drove into the van head-on causing both vehicles to catch on fire.
He was just starting his first season as head coach for the golf teams at the University of Southwest.
"Tyler ran with it and really took advantage of his opportunities and his career goals and it's just really heartbreaking for so many and it's something we don't take lightly," Ryan Erwin, Vice president of student engagement and athletics said.
Coach James' death was a shock to many, especially among the student-athletes he coached while at ETBU.
"I've never lost someone that I known like that in a way like this so it's tough for me to kind of process, and I was just really shaking when I heard the news this morning," Hank Crane, Senior and Captain of ETBU Men's Golf Team said.
Coach James was more than a coach but a man of wisdom who didn't shy away from sharing gospel on and off the field.
"It was more than just about golf he was able to pour into the lives of our student-athletes," Erwin added. "In how they interacted in the classroom, in the community but also spiritually he used golf as a form of ministry to our student-athletes when he was coaching and interacting with them."
His presence on the golf course also came with some humor during the good and bad times.
"The most important thing he told me, especially on the golf course and it applies to life as well, is to never give up," Crane added. There were times on the golf course where I was so down in the dumps after I had a bad whole or something Coach James would see me from across the course and tell me a joke just to lighten me up."
Those interactions and life lessons will forever be embedded into the hearts James impacted. This golf season Crane says they will continue to carry on his legacy on and off the field.
"I think as this season goes forward we can see this as trying to do this for him and also a time to be our best selves in this situation," Crane added. "I know he would want us to succeed and if we just work hard I think we can continue his legacy that way."
ETBU will have grief counselors 24/7 for students, faculty and staff.