Coach John Outlaw Memorialized in Feature Film
May 5, 2016
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The director of the documentary “Outlaw: Life, Death and Football” has plans to release the film to Video on Demand and iTunes by the time the 2016 football season comes around so that Pack fans will have a chance to watch and learn about the man who made Lufkin football a statewide powerhouse.
Although the name Outlaw is synonymous with Texas high school football, those who do not follow the sport will still enjoy this tale about a man whose story almost wasn’t told.
The director, Matt Skinner, first met Coach John Outlaw when he and two others were assigned to document Lufkin football player JaMarcus McFarland, but later realized that the real story was Outlaw.
“As we were filming this, we were like, what about this over here? This is something very interesting and the name, that’s probably not even his real name,” Skinner said. “That’s probably just a mythical ‘oh he did something when he was a kid kind of last name.’ But no, that was the real deal.”
That was the moment Skinner realized his attention shifted from the player to the coach.
“And the reason why is because Coach Outlaw was this figure that was larger than life but was a small man – small in stature – but everywhere he went just commanded attention and respect,” Skinner said.
But once Skinner gained track of what he wanted in his documentary, a bad 2009 economy put his film production on hold. The film was not being funded, and people were not being paid. Regardless, Skinner did not want to let Outlaw down so he continued the documentary anyway because it was a story that had to be told.
“We stayed because we started to learn about this and the way that Coach Outlaw made you feel,” Skinner said. “So here I am a fish out of water across many state lines shooting a documentary thinking ‘What the heck is going on here?’”
He recalls one moment when Coach Outlaw noticed how nervous Skinner was, he put his arm around him and asked him how he was. Skinner sensed the sincerity of this gesture, and it drove him to continue the production regardless of the paychecks.
“He came up and put his arm around me and he pointed up at Dez Bryant and goes ‘ that right there is the best player that ever came out of here. That is a freak of nature’,” Skinner recalls Outlaw saying about the current Dallas Cowboys receiver. “And then he goes, ‘How are you? What are you up to? Tell me a little bit about you.’ With his arm around me.”
Skinner said Outlaw always responded to emails and coach’s secretary, Jennifer Galloway, always let Coach Outlaw know whenever someone needed him.
“That was just one of his wonderful characteristics,” Galloway said. “That he made everybody feel like you were his, you were it, and I really believe we were. Each and every one of us was.”
Galloway and Outlaw became close friends, and she learned to appreciate the little things that Coach Outlaw did for her, especially the way he introduced her to visitors whether they be another faculty member or someone from across the nation.
“And when they would come in, he would always say ‘Let me introduce you to who really runs this show’ and it was me,” Galloway said. “Now not too many people do that. He was always giving credit to the other people.”
According to Galloway, that is the Outlaw she saw when she was one of the few invited to a preview of the film while sitting on John Outlaw Memorial Field at Abe Martin Stadium.
“All kinds [of emotions] when you see him and you hear his voice,” she said. “It just kinda grabs you there in the beginning, but then it’s almost like he has never left.”
Galloway also said that while watching the documentary, she learned more about Outlaw’s early years and was reminded that he had a life before coming to Panther Nation.
“We act like he was ours, but he wasn’t,” Galloway said. “He had this whole life before he got here. It was fun to get to see him in high school and in college and being a coach at 25 [years old] …that was priceless.”
The film also brings attention to Outlaw’s childhood where he was bullied because of the way he looked.
“You know…one of your eyes tilted in this way [pointing] third graders are gonna give you heck, second graders are gonna give you heck,” Skinner said.
Skinner said that instead of walking around with a chip on his shoulder, Outlaw, unlike most people, would overcome any challenge.
“He knew how to take something that nine out of 10 people get as a failure and he would turn it into a success,” Skinner said.
Galloway thought that Outlaw was “renegade” and was so much of his own individual.
“He marched to his own tune,” Galloway said, ”and he told us ‘I’ll do one of anything, one time.’ He was so much of his own self it was really interesting.”
Because of the way that Outlaw was, he made an impression those around him and their families.
“He had a huge impact on me and then he had an impact on my family, my children and all that,” said Todd Quick, current athletic director and head coach. “So I don’t know if I could put into words how much impact he had, but I know he’s still impacting me today.”
Quick started coaching with Outlaw in 1984 at Arkadelphia High School. After three years, they both moved to Sherman, Texas before moving to Lufkin in 1995.
Even though he has been gone for more than four years, Outlaw still continues to be a part of the everyday lives of people who knew him.
“We talked to him a minute ago there,” said Galloway as she pointed at a picture of Outlaw on the wall in her office. “I talk to him in the mornings. He helps me. If I need to know something, he advises me. I really do think about him a lot.”
And one morning in particular will stay with Galloway – Dec. 23, 2011. That is the morning she and Outlaw were to meet at 6 a.m. at Brookshire Brothers to do holiday shopping.
“I was almost finished and I got a call from Ms. Stephanie (LaRue) who used to work in the ticket office,” Galloway said.
She adds that LaRue was explaining that she has a friend telling her that she was ‘hearing some stuff.’
“I was like, ‘nope,’” Galloway said. “Nobody has called me. That’s not right.”
Galloway said she went down another aisle and then considered what she had heard and decided to call some assistant coaches who told her “yes, it was confirmed” that Coach Outlaw had died.
“I was right there at there house, Brookshire’s is kinda by their house,” Galloway said. “So I went on by and that’s how I found out. I talked to Mrs. Francie [Outlaw]”
Now, to this day, Galloway sits out on her porch, where she talks with Outlaw and occasionally get signs from him.
One such moment when Outlaw “spoke” to her and others was during the staff premiere of the documentary. Outlaw shared a familiar sign that indicated his presence.
“He would have wanted us sitting on his field, and we looked up, there was one single star,” Galloway said. “Yeah, once y’all see the movie you’ll understand that.”
In the documentary, there was a scene shown from a football game recently after Outlaw’s passing, where former defensive end, Demontrai Lewis, noticed a single star during a rough game where the Lufkin was losing.
Some believe that the single star during the game was a sign that Outlaw was watching over them and it gave the players hope that the game may turn around in their favor.
And while the credits were being shown after the staff premiere of the documentary, the staff looked up to the sky and was in awe when they noticed that there was only one single visible star in the sky.
And if that was Coach looking down, he would know that proceeds from a three-day showing at the Cinemark Theatre would bring proceeds to be donated to the John Outlaw foundation for scholarships.