Tragedy struck the Howard County football community again on Sept. 19, and the Taylor Titans are rallying and dedicating their remaining season to a fallen teammate, marking the third such death in Kokomo in the last month.
Junior offensive lineman Johnathan McKoon passed away in a single-car accident on that Sunday morning, and Titans coach Josh Ousley said managing the news has been difficult for himself and the team. But the team is attempting to move on in McKoon’s honor for the remainder of the season. McKoon was a stellar teammate, player and human, he said.
“He always had a smile on his face. He was one of the nicest kids you would ever meet, and most of his teammates would say the same things about him. He’s just a good guy, and the kind of guy you want on your football team,” Ousley said.
McKoon was learning on the field, Ousley said, and he was going to be a really solid football player. The lack of opportunity due to cancellations this season has limited play and participation, but as far as putting the work in and enjoying the team, McKoon was second to none.
He was a gentle giant, always offering a helping hand and lifting up his teammates, Ousley said. Senior lineman Dominick Durham agreed, and said McKoon was a guy he wanted to have on his team any day.
“I think he brought a different type of character. John was definitely a loving guy. He was always willing to help. Any time you needed somebody to talk to, he was always the guy. Just a really caring and genuine gentle giant, and overall a really nice guy,” Durham said.
This has been anything but a normal season for the Titans. Cancellations from 2020 have returned in 2021 as the pandemic still goes on, and the Titans have hardly been able to see the field.
It’s difficult to bounce back after a tragedy like this, and even harder when there's a limited amount of gameplay available to the players. It’s hard to know what kind of team Taylor is this season, but Ousley said this unfortunate tragedy has brought the players together.
“It isn’t easy. Nothing about this season has been easy. Here it is, week six, and we’ve played one game. And then we get dealt this blow, as a community, as a school, and as a team. It’s been a difficult situation for us,” Ousley said. “The kids have reacted well, you know, as good as they can in this kind of situation. They’re trying to stay positive and use Friday night as a chance to remember him in a good way and enjoy each other through this tragedy.”
Junior linebacker Bricyn Cooks said he’s never been on a team with this many obstacles, but he’s also very close to his teammates.
Between quarantines, prayer vigils, and limited time on the field, the only thing the Titans can do is rely on each other through the tough times, he said. The culture at Taylor is second to none, he said, and the community support has made the hard times bearable.
“We’ve had huge support, and I think the community here really bands together in a time of need. We all become kind of one big family when a tragedy like this happens,” Durham said. “As a community as a whole, everybody is really loving and caring. We had quite a few people come out for his prayer vigil the other day, and it really kind of showed what kind of community Taylor is and how much support we really got. And it showed what kind of person John was and really how many people cared for and loved him.”
Though the Titans were unable to pull off the win, both Taylor and Sheridan communities gathered to honor McKoon’s life and play for something biggerOne thing is for sure, Taylor is always Titan Strong, even when it’s not easy. The community is asking for prayers and support as they continue to navigate this tragedy and the remaining season.
“Johnathan McKoon, and the entire McKoon family, are true red and black Taylor Titans. The emotional outpouring of love and empathy for Johnathan and his family makes it evident how much of an impact Johnathan had on our community,” Taylor Athletic Director Jake Leicht said. “He touched many lives with his kindness, hard work, and caring nature. We as a district are in mourning, but over the next several days we hope to celebrate Johnathan’s life with his family and friends. Although Johnathan was taken from this earth far too soon, his memory will live on forever in our community.”