He made an impact
By Kevin Eckleberry
LAGRANGE – He made coaching a pleasure.
For more than 20 years, Michael Woodard was the head football coach at Gardner Newman Middle School.
For Woodard, one of the great joys of that job was the opportunity to be around young people and help mold them and teach them.
One of those students who always brought a smile to Woodard’s face was Nar’Quevious Tucker, who was a member of the Gardner Newman football team during the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
“He was a treat to be around,” Woodard said. “Any teacher would tell you that. And a lot of times the teachers would come to me and report about misbehavior the football players’ displayed. But he wasn’t one of them. He was a joy to teach. And we wish we had more like him.”
As Woodard offered those words, he knew he’d never be able to talk to Tucker again, or see what sort of man he would blossom into.
Tragically, Tucker died over the weekend while participating in a LaGrange High football team activity in the LaGrange College pool.
The 14-year-old Tucker was pulled out of the pool on Saturday night, and he died around midnight.
Tucker, or Nar Nar as his friends called him, was set to begin his freshman season at LaGrange High after excelling as a football player at Gardner Newman.
Woodard said Tucker joined the team without much football knowledge, but that he was committed to improving himself, to being the best player he could be.
“Coaches would love to coach somebody like him,” Woodard said. “He was raw. When he came as a seventh-grader, I don’t think he had even played organized football. But the drive, and the wanting to get better, and the what do I need to do to get better, that’s the kind of person he was.”
Scooter Weathers, who is taking over for Woodard as Gardner Newman’s head football coach, was the defensive coordinator while Tucker was at the school.
Tucker was primarily a defensive lineman, so Weathers got to know him well the past two football seasons.
“He was the kind of kid that, you were ready to go to practice because of him,” Weathers said. “That was the kind of kid he was. You knew what you were getting when he was on the field. You knew what you were getting in practice, because he gave you his all, all the time.”
Football’s a tough sport.
It demands a lot from its participants, but Weathers said Tucker was always cheerful and eager to work.
“He always smiled, and he was always upbeat,” Weathers said. “It was yes sir, no sir. He was a great kid, great athlete. He was a good student. He’s all-around, what a Mustang is.”
Tucker didn’t just excel in football. He was also an honor-roll student at Gardner Newman, and Weathers said he “got along great” with his teammates.
“He was a captain for us in football,” Weathers said. “He was one who was a role model and a leader. He is what you would like every football player to represent.”
Emily Pitts was Tucker’s kindergarten teacher at Hollis Hand, and she remembers a student who “had a sparkle in his eye” from the first day she met him.
“Nar Nar was smart, kind, respectful, and hard-working,” she said. “He was loved by everyone and he will truly be missed. My heart aches for his family, his teammates, his former teachers and coaches. He will always be remembered.”
One of Tucker’s classmates at Gardner Newman, Zack Thompson, said “NarNar was a great friend and always made me laugh. We shared a lot for hip-hop music and would sing songs together in class. In PE, I always him on my football team because would get multiple interceptions every game. I sure will miss our fun times and pray for healing for his family.”
Brandi Turner taught at Gardner Newman last school year, and she is now teaching at LaGrange High, and she may have had Tucker as a student once again.
“NarNar was one of my babies. I loved him so,” Turner said. “He was so polite, smart, and an all-around good kid. I was hoping I got to teach him again this year at LHS. Nar was friends with everyone and liked by all. He was genuinely a good kid and had so much potential.”
Turner added that “he was a blessing and I can say this year will be tough knowing he will not be there.”