An old coaching adage suggests never returning to your hometown to coach. JT Newton couldn’t return home to Bangs fast enough to begin his coaching career.
Bangs athletic director and head football coach Kyle Maxfield confirmed Newton’s recent hiring as assistant coach for football and baseball as well as seventh-grade math teacher.
“I love the small-town feel,” said Newton, who graduated from Houston Baptist University in May with a degree in Wellness Management. “I went to college the last three years in Houston, and a big city is not the place for me. Every bit of my family is in Bangs. I love Bangs.”
Bangs loved Newton as well during a decorated athletic career. Newton was a two-time all-state catcher, an honorable all-state pitcher and helped the Dragons’ baseball team advance to the UIL Class 2A state tournament in 2013. In football, he quarterbacked the Dragons to two playoff wins in both the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Those wins over Breckenridge, Idalou, Comanche and Denver City still stand as the Dragons’ most recent postseason victories.
“Oh man, it’s really a blessing to have somebody like JT join our coaching staff,” Maxfield said. “The No. 1 thing he has is a winning attitude. Bangs was good when he played here, and we’re trying to get back to that level.
“Some people say it’s tough to go back home to coach, but I don’t see any negatives with JT. Growing up in Bangs, he knows what kind of kids we have and where they come from. He’ll know how to coach them hard.”
The Dragons finished 9-4 during Newton’s junior and senior seasons in football, and the 6-foot-1 quarterback finished his Bangs career with 7,190 yards and 67 touchdowns passing. But since he graduated in 2014, Bangs hasn’t enjoyed a winning season and has appeared in just one playoff game. Maxfield became head coach last season and improved the Dragons to 3-7 after they had gone 2-27 in the previous three seasons, including 0-10 finishes in 2015 and 2017.
“I grew up in Bangs my whole life,” Newton said, “and I never witnessed what’s been going on the last few years. I’m excited for the chance to help this program get back on its feet.”
In baseball, Newton will assist new Bangs head coach Steve Biera, who previously coached with Maxfield in Shallowater. As Shallowater’s head coach, Biera guided the Mustangs to the Class 3A state tournament in 2016.
“It certainly can’t hurt, having a state tournament coach and a state tournament player leading our baseball program,” Maxfield said. “At smaller schools, you’re looking for well-rounded coaches who can coach more than one sport.”
Newton played a year of junior college baseball at Cisco before playing three seasons for Houston Baptist’s NCAA Division I program.
Newton experienced highs and lows at Houston Baptist. As a sophomore in 2017, he posted a 7-0 record and a 2.15 earned run average in 23 appearances out of the bullpen. He was voted the Southland Conference Relief Pitcher of the Year.
But Newton never duplicated that success again at Houston Baptist. He finished 3-5 with a 7.15 ERA and five saves as a junior in 2018. He was 0-6 with a 4.99 ERA and seven saves last season as a senior.
“When I went down there (Houston) in 2017, I pitched like I didn’t have anything to lose. I was just trying to gain a spot on the roster,” Newton said.
He said his fastball velocity improved from 90-92 mph as a sophomore to 95 mph as a junior and 97 mph as a senior. It would seem like more velocity would help a pitcher, but it ended up hurting Newton.
“I was throwing harder, but I couldn’t control it very well,” he said. “I couldn’t throw strikes, and then I pushed myself too hard. I was trying to be perfect in everything I did, and that was the worst thing I could have done because nobody’s perfect.”
Asked what he learned as a player that will make him a better coach, Newton said, “You have really good times and really bad times, but you have to have the same mentality through both. You have to keep a good head on your shoulders whether you’re winning games or losing them. You can’t give up on a play or a season.”
Three years in Houston answered a lot of questions for Newton, including his love for small towns and his desire to remain involved with sports.
“I don’t like the traffic in big cities. There are too many people. It’s way too crowded,” Newton said. “I’m an outdoorsman so a small town suits me. I love small-town football games where the whole city is behind the team.”
Newton said he has known for a long time that he wanted to coach after college. “I wanted to keep playing sports, and after that, I wanted to still be involved in sports. Sports have been my life for my entire life. I can’t imagine staying away from sports,” he said.
2012 Football Bangs 2,457 yards, 24 TDs passing
2013 Baseball Bangs All-State catcher for state semifinalist team
2013 Football Bangs Led Bangs to two playoff wins for second year
2014 Baseball Bangs Second-Team all-state catcher, HM all-state pitcher
2015 Baseball Cisco College Redshirted
2016 Baseball Cisco College 2-1 record, 4.88 ERA, 32Ks in 27 innings
2017 Baseball Houston Baptist 7-0, 2.15 ERA, Southland Conf. Relief Pitcher of Year
2018 Baseball Houston Baptist 3-5 record, 7.15 ERA, 5 saves
2019 Baseball Houston Baptist 0-6 record, 4.99 ERA, 7 saves