Cary Fowler is preparing to attend another funeral.

The Tarleton State head football coach who took part in the services for both a defensive lineman who passed away after suffering a traumatic brain injury on the practice field in the spring of 2010 and for the Texans' longtime radio voice who died last month, is now preparing to attend a service for an athlete he never had the opportunity to coach.

Cody Stephens, 18, signed to play football with Tarleton in February, but the 6 foot, 9 inch, 305-pound offensive tackle died in his sleep Sunday night in his home in Crosby, just east of Houston. He would have graduated high school later this month.

Results of an autopsy were not available Wednesday morning.

Visitation is Wednesday evening with the funeral service to follow at 11 a.m. Thursday, both at First Baptist Church of Crosby. Burial will follow at Sterling-White Cemetery in nearby Highlands.

"I just don't understand it," said Fowler. "But it's not my job to understand it. It's my job to have faith and to help these kids through it."

Fowler said the players and coaching staff on campus met Stephens on his official recruiting visit and again at last month's spring game, which he attended with his parents, Scott and Melody Stephens.

"Everyone liked him. He was the type of kid who drew you to him," Fowler said.

Stephens was that way at home in Crosby, too, where in addition to football he was involved in FFA, 4-H, ag mechanics and outdoor activities.

"There are some things we can learn from a guy like Cody," said Fowler. "He was a leader. He went to elementary schools and read to children. He was involved in his community and church and active in his school. He's everything we want in our student-athletes. That's why we are always finding ways to get our athletes out in the community, is to develop leadership skills. Cody already had those.

"This is a big loss for Tarleton, not just because we believe he would have been a great football player for us, but because we believed he would be a great ambassador for everything this program and this university stands for," Fowler added. "I hate it for us, but I really hate it for that family, especially with it occurring during what should have been such a happy time in their lives."

Stephens was scheduled to receive a scholarship from the Crosby Fair and Rodeo Monday. His family was celebrating another graduation with a gathering at their home on Saturday.

A memorial scholarship fund has been established at Crosby's Community Bank of Texas NA to provide for the future college education of Crosby students, according to Stephens' obituary.

Fowler says the Tarleton football program will also honor him.

"I don't know right now what exactly we'll do," Fowler said. "It might be a special logo that we'll wear on our helmets next season, or something else, but we will do something.

"I tell all our young men, you are a member of this family from the moment you sign that letter or announce you're playing here, and you're a member of it forever," Fowler said. "Cody was a member of that family, a member of my family. I hate that I didn't get to coach him."

 

Find Stephens' obituary in related materials to left

Follow Brad Keith on Twitter @etsports