KATY MAGAZINE l MAY 2019
By Jennifer Miko
After coaching and mentoring probably thousands of Katy young men during his time at Cinco Ranch High School, Don Clayton shares fond memories of his time as head football coach, and what the next chapter holds.
When CRHS first opened in 1999, Clayton started the program there, and for 20 years, he was the only football coach the Cougars had ever known. When he announced his retirement on April 15, the highly respected coach was flooded with well-wishes and fond memories from players, parents and a grateful community.
Before They Called Him Coach
Clayton graduated from Nederland High School in 1975 and went to on to study at the University of Wyoming with a history major. While there, he played baseball and was the school’s star quarterback. His impressive on-field skills landed him in the school’s athletics hall of fame.
In the fall of 1979, Clayton moved back to Texas to get his teaching certificate from Lamar University.
At the same time, Rhonda Lofton, was starting her senior year at Lamar University. Her father coached football at the junior high in Nederland, and she recalls, “I grew up in a football town and have been attending football games since I was a young child.”
She remembered Clayton from his “glory days” playing quarterback in high school.
“I told a mutual friend that I wanted to meet him. I truthfully spent my whole summer school session planning my breaks between classes trying to be in a hall that he would be in!!” Rhonda remembered.
When Clayton was student teaching and coaching at his alma mater, Nederland High School, the planning final worked and the couple had their first date at a Country Western dance hall.
The Love of His Life
After dating for 14 months, Don Clayton proposed. “I got her a ring, asked her dad, and then I asked her if she wanted to spend the rest of her life with me. With her being the daughter of a coach, she knew what life was going to be like – very similar to what she grew up in.” They were married in June of 1982.
Moving to Katy
In 1984, the couple planted roots in Katy and Rhonda started teaching at Cimmaron Elementary. Clayton held the assistant coaching spot under Mike Johnston at Katy High School in the late 1980s, and went on to be the Head Coach at Livingston from 1990-1993. He returned to Katy High School as the Offensive Coordinator from 1994-1999 and was tapped for the Head Coach position at CRHS that year.
Clayton considers developing a truly successful athletic program from scratch to be his biggest accomplishment at CRHS.
“We intended to create a culture of commitment, work ethic, and competitive excellence from the very beginning and I believe we have been successful in our efforts,” Clayton said. “I believe we were able to establish Cinco Ranch High School as a state-recognized athletic program. It was never just about football – I have a sincere love of all the sports at CRHS and have been blessed as a Campus Athletic Coordinator, to have a tremendous group of both head coaches and assistant coaches working with our kids.”
Accomplished Track Record
In just three years, Clayton coached CRHS to a winning record, and two years later, the team would reach the playoffs for the first time. During his 20 years as Head Coach at CRHS, Clayton led the team to 13 playoff appearances in 19 seasons. In 2008, the team won the district title, and would follow that accomplishment with two trips to the semi-finals (2009 and 2016). His overall record with the Cougars: 141-78.
During Clayton's 38-year coaching career, he has served as the Region V director for the Texas High School Coaches Association (THSCA) and held the post of president of the Greater Houston Football Coaches Association. He also served on the State 7 on 7 Board of Directors and the Touchdown Club of Houston's Player of the Year Committee. In 2017, Clayton was inducted into the THSCA 2017 Hall of Honor.
Cinco Ranch High School Principals reunite to honor Clayton.
(Left to right) Lowell Strike, Bonnie Brasic, Don Clayton and James Cross.
Life Lessons On and Off the Field
“Our goal has always been to help develop the boy into a man who will be a man of honor and then a great husband and then a great father,” Clayton said. “What happens on the field just helps them to grow in their life and to help them to learn life lessons.”
Throughout his coaching career, Clayton offered his players more than athletic guidance and coaching during practices and games. He wanted them to be prepared for success on and off the field.
“Be the teammate that everyone wants a teammate to be. That is the underlying theme in what a team really is,” Clayton said. “You have to be able to work with a variety of different people to accomplish a goal – that will occur throughout your life.”
New Clayton Team Members
In 1985, the Claytons welcomed their first daughter Lindsay, and four years later, her sister Lacey joined the team. They were destined to wear maroon and love football.
“There was always a football around in the house that they would frequently migrate to. They also would throw pine cones outside.”
Rhonda described Don as a great coach and teacher but said she’s proudest of him being a great dad. “He has never let his job interfere with that. He took the time to coach both girls in KYB during their elementary years.”
Several times in his career, Clayton was truly able to be a “dad” on the football field when he accompanied each of his daughters at the Dad/Daughter halftime dance.
“I had the opportunity to dance a total of five halftimes with them during their time in Cougar Stars,” he recalls. “Even though I was coaching in the game, I would not have missed dancing with them at halftime because they have always been here for me. It was something I will always remember and cherish.”
Rhonda remembers how her husband would leave the locker room to enjoy that special time with the girls. “They were aware of how stressful that might have been for him, but he knew how much that meant to them,” she said. “There may not be a trophy or award handed out for that, but it is something that the girls will cherish always.”
The Next Chapter
Rhonda retired from Katy ISD in 2015, so now both Claytons can make plans to enjoy retirement and spend lots of time with their grandchildren - Cailynn and Grant, 2, Clayton, 7 months and Charlotte, 2 months. But they will still find time to watch and cheer on the CRHS Cougars.
“We look forward to someday going to the Kentucky Derby, seeing a Michigan/Ohio State game in the Big House, and taking the Highway 1 drive up the west coast. We are anxious for the time when our grandchildren will be old enough for the big trip to Disney World,” Clayton said.
Coaching a New Generation
When asked if he was planning a “senior steal,” Clayton said, “I will ‘borrow’ a helmet for both of my grandsons.” Grant has been to numerous games in his two years of life and Clayton was born at kickoff of the Cinco Ranch vs. Jersey Village game on September 7th last year.
As for those grandsons, Clayton predicts football in their future.
“I will love working with them and watching them grow up.”
Soon, Clayton will have the perfect memento to represent his legacy and share with his grandchildren.
“I want them to remember that Pops coached the team with a CR on the helmet.”