Passing of friend impacts CHS starters on field

By Seth Slover
Staff Writer

Juniors Luke Jenner and Jason Lister remember their friend Jha’Kyric on and off the field. Photo by Jodie Woodward

Tragedy often has the greatest influence on those who are immediately impacted.  For Coppell football players Luke Jenner and Jason Lister, the tragic death of good friend Jha’Kyric Nixon has become their inspiration and motivation on the football field.

Coppell resident Jha’Kyric Nixon, 17, died July 29 in a drowning accident at a Lewisville Lake birthday party.  Unfortunately, over 100 people – the vast majority students at Coppell High – were present as attendees of the birthday party. Nixon was planning to transfer to CHS from the Carrollton-Farmers Branch School District.

Everyone who knew Nixon was positively impacted by his vivacious personality, clever jokes, and caring spirit.  It undoubtedly takes a special person to connect a community and form a bond among friends the way that Nixon did.

Coppell juniors, running back Luke Jenner and wide receiver Jason Lister, considered Nixon a best friend.  Needless to say, the reverberations of Nixon’s passing were felt greatly by the Coppell community.  As with any death, the grief and shock felt soon after was abundant. Friends and family say Nixon’s personal faith provides great assurance and encouragement as to the his eternal destination.

Jenner and Lister chose not to dwell in their grief, but instead, took heart.  They have both channeled their emotions as positive motivation in their lives – and especially on the gridiron.

Nixon serves as an inspiration, causing in his friends a great will to win and will to succeed for his sake. Nixon was hoping to play basketball for CHS and eventually at Oregon State.

Jenner and Lister are both making great strides on the football field.  Jenner, a first year starter, has rushed for over 800 yards and eight touchdowns through the first seven games of the season.  It is clear that Jenner’s explosive play in his first season is rooted in motivation that stems from something deeper than just football.

“Jha’Kyric was an athlete.  He constantly worked so hard.” Jenner said. “He took full advantage of the time he had to progress as the athlete he wanted to be.  Now, since he isn’t here, I feel called to work twice as hard as before.”

Lister, a starter since his sophomore season, grabbed his first touchdown of the year against the Saginaw Roughriders, to go along with 13 catches through the first seven games.  He too has a new approach to both football and life in general.

“One thing I realized through Jha’Kyric’s passing was that you never know if today will be your last day,” Lister said.  “I want to live every day – and play every game – as if it were my last.”

Other players have similar views on the situation.

“This has really opened a lot of people’s eyes about how fragile life is,” junior Alex Kulig said.

Jenner and Lister each considered Nixon as not just a friend, but a brother.  Both players agree that there is a strengthened brotherhood within the Coppell football team.  Jenner and Lister, close friends themselves, are forced to rely on others.

With difficult games, including a very good Keller Central team, on the upcoming schedule for the Cowboys, the team will have to play inspired football in order to come away victorious.  Now more than ever, many players are able to effortlessly find a source of inspiration through their close friend who no longer is in the stands rooting them on.

“I do it for him.  I play for him,” Lister said.  “He always told me he would be here watching me.  Before every game I picture him up in the stands cheering me on.  It’s a great feeling to know he has a better seat for watching the game now than anyone in the stands does.”

Jenner approaches his games in his own way.

“I pray before every game.  I pray that I’ll make God proud, and in addition that I’ll make Jha’Kyric proud.  I miss my friend – and I always will – but I work hard and keep pressing on,” Jenner said.

It is this sense of diligence, commitment and inspiration – resulting from a love for a friend no longer here – that Jenner, Lister and the Cowboys are using to hopefully make this a season to remember.