“When you say his name, you just think about how lucky you were to coach him.”
Those are the words that describe the special relationship between Eufaula senior Khelil Deere and his football coach Larry Newton Jr. “I can be sitting in my office watching video or something and someone will come up behind me and give me a hug and ask how my day has been and I just know it’s Khelil,” said Newton.
That relationship goes back to the seventh grade when Newton first started coaching Deere.
“I remember our first game against Okmulgee, and they had a kid who broke a long run from deep in their territory,” recalls Newton. “Khelil was at cornerback all the way across the field and he ran the kid down at the one-yard line, stripped the ball and recovered it. Afterwards one of their coaches said, ‘Coach no one has ever run that kid down like that before’. In the eighth grade he made the best catch I ever saw him make when he went up over a kid and made a one-handed grab. I knew then he was going to be special.”
But then there was a break in the action that neither coach nor player has ever explained.
“He decided not to play his freshman year,” said Newton. “I’ve asked him several times since why and he just says he didn’t want to, but I wonder sometimes if I put too much pressure on him.”
But fortunately for the Ironheads he picked right back up his sophomore year and the rest is history. He helped take Eufaula to the playoffs three straight years culminating with a spot in the state semifinals this past season. He has verbally committed to play at Arkansas State next year and still has the basketball and track seasons ahead of him in a career that puts him among the well- known elites who are Ironhead alums.
“He’ll be right up there with the Selmon brothers, J.C. Watts, the Burkhalters and others who have made a name for themselves here at Eufaula,” said Newton.
The ever-humble Khelil spoke about that honor and his relationship with Newton.
“I don’t really have a player role model that I’ve looked up to. Coach Newton has been one of the biggest factors in my life. He’s taught me to try hard and do my best,’ said Deere. “It makes me feel really good being compared to those great names before me because they did a lot of good things for this town and made a big name for themselves.”
His role as a team leader of high character goes back to a key belief of his.
“Character begins with having a positive mindset in everything I do and being a good leader. I guess I’d like to be remembered here at Eufaula as someone who was a great leader on the field and a great guy off the field.”