Texas high school coach helped shape 3 BobcatsEULESS, Texas — As you turn onto Industrial Boulevard here, you suddenly see what looks like the campus of a small liberal arts college. Eleven district buildings sprawl over the sizeable plot of land that breaks up what seems like a never-ending stream of churches and chapels.
By: Colter Nuanez, Bozeman Daily Chronicle
EULESS, Texas — As you turn onto Industrial Boulevard here, you suddenly see what looks like the campus of a small liberal arts college. Eleven district buildings sprawl over the sizeable plot of land that breaks up what seems like a never-ending stream of churches and chapels.
Just a 10-minute drive from the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Trinity High School is home to 2,180 students in this small suburb between two cities. It’s also home to one of the most storied prep football programs in America and, not long ago, three of Bozeman’s favorite sons called the halls of Trinity home as well.
Montana State University sophomore quarterback DeNarius McGhee, junior running back Tray Robinson and sophomore outside linebacker Na’a Moeakiola all are alumni of the famed high school. All three are Bobcat starters as Montana State enters the FCS quarterfinals against Sam Houston State on Saturday in Huntsville, Texas. All three have their names immortalized in gold lettering on a bronze plaque that hangs in the hallway of Pennington Field here.
During Steve Lineweaver’s 12 seasons as the Trojans’ head coach, he’s helped dozens of players earn college scholarships. Since 2005, the team has captured three Texas Class 5A Division I state titles. McGhee and Robinson were both starters on Trinity’s 2007 state title team. The trio helped Trinity attain a No. 1 national ranking during their senior seasons in 2008.
Step into Lineweaver’s office on the north side of the Trinity campus and your eyes are flooded with the prestige and tradition of the program he’s built. Upon his wall are framed clippings from metropolitan and national newspapers, including an article in the Wall Street Journal. To the right of his desk is a framed picture of five players with outstretched fists, showing off the 2007 state title rings they cherish. Among the five, you can spot younger versions of Robinson and McGhee.
Winning is of paramount importance to Lineweaver. He has the trophies and the accolades to prove it. But it’s not simply wins on the gridiron his program covets.
“Here, we want to develop a program that wins forever,” Lineweaver said. “What I mean by that is we want DeNarius and Dontrayveous (Tray) and Na’a and all our players to go on and have winning success in their lives. I’m not talking about winning games in college. I’m talking about finding a balance with their spiritual life, their family life and their work life. We just try to hit all those things here.”
It’s this symbiotic balance of life and the cohesive bond built by teammates that Lineweaver and his players — current and former — point to as the primary factor for the school’s wild success during the past decade.
“(Lineweaver) basically just taught us to love one another as a team and made it a family more than individuals,” Robinson said earlier this week. “Building relationships with each other on the team was more important than building stats. Going out there as a unit was more important than anything else.”
“(Lineweaver) helps us mentally and physically, but most of all he helps us spiritually,” said Trinity sophomore George Moeakiola, Na’a’s younger brother and the youngest of five Moeakiolas to play for the Trojans. “Every Thursday, we go to chapel together and Coach has a message for us. Always.”
The accomplishments of the Trojan football team since the turn of the century — the team has won 10 district titles in Lineweaver’s 12 seasons — is all the more impressive when considering the social and economic climate of the school district.
According to the most recent census numbers, 36 percent of Trinity’s students come from economically disadvantaged families. Because Euless is so close to an international hub like DFW Airport and because housing prices are so cheap — three minutes from Pennington Field, a residential property had a “For Sale” sign for $68,000 — the school is a melting pot of cultural diversity.
Of the student body, 49 percent are Caucasian, 19 percent are Hispanic, 12.7 percent are Pacific Islander, 17 percent are black and 1 percent are Native Americans. According to the census, Euless (pop. 51,277) has one of the largest Tongan communities in the nation. An estimated 4,000 Tongans live in the suburb, representing nearly 8 percent of the population.
The diversity brings a challenge to the Trinity coaching staff. But sports, particularly football, Lineweaver said, feeds the “hunger to make it in this community” for many of the young men.
“Some of these kids, I’m not talking about moving from another part of the country, I’m talking about moving from another country,” Lineweaver said. “I’ve got guys who don’t speak English at home. What a wonderful challenge to try to make them into a team.”
The Tongan culture has increased the limelight on the school. The football team is known for performing the “Ka Mate Haka,” an old Maori war dance performed before and after football games. The “Haka” was the feature of the Wall Street Journal article and has received recognition from television stories done by ESPN, CNN and the “CBS Evening News.” The “Haka” was also featured in commercials for Gatorade and EA Sports’ Madden 2011 video game.
On this afternoon, it’s picture day for the football players. Three school buses full of athletes — both varsity and “varsity reserves” as Lineweaver likes to call the practice squad players — made the 10-minute drive from the Trinity campus to the 13,000-seat Pennington Field. A smorgasbord of diversity filled with young men of all shapes, sizes and colors spilled onto the Pennington Field turf as the buses unloaded.
Yet each autumn, all differences — whether cultural, social, economic or ethnic — seem to disappear as the team pursues a common goal.
“It’s about eliminating the disease of ‘me,’” Lineweaver said. “We go to great lengths to establish the magic of team. It’s so magical when it is achieved.”
“How close our bond is, the team chemistry, it’s like all of us are a big old family and we all care for each other,” said Trinity senior Hiva Lutui, an all-state offensive lineman who will play at UCLA next fall. “When we go to games, we don’t want to lose because we don’t want to let each other down.”
“Physical toughness and mental toughness, it’s the way we play the game,” added senior running back Joel Kimpela, a U.S. Army High School All-American. “No one plays for themselves. We play for our brothers.”
The bond formed each fall at Trinity is akin to the bond shared by this year’s Montana State squad. The adage says “attitude reflects leadership,” so perhaps it’s no coincidence the theme of brotherhood is similar at Trinity and MSU. McGhee is one of MSU’s captains, and Robinson has served as captain of the special teams on more than one occasion.
Lineweaver vividly remembers McGhee’s presence and command as a leader. On this day, he talks about Dontrayveous “Tray” Robinson’s constant desire to achieve greatness since he first came to Trinity. The coach speaks of Moeakiola’s rich athletic bloodlines and the quality of persons his parents raised.
As MSU prepares to take on the No. 1 Bearkats on Saturday, it’s certain the lessons the Trinity trio learned here during their youth will help guide them to greatness during this playoff run and beyond.
“Learning to be a man is what Trinity football is all about,” Na’a Moeakiola said. “Coach taught us class and character and what it means to be a team, having each other’s backs. It was an unforgettable experience to have a coach like him because that man is a legend.”