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The student news site of Kingwood Park High School

KP TIMES

The student news site of Kingwood Park High School

KP TIMES

Houston honors Coovert as his cancer battle continues

History+teacher+and+coach+Eric+Coovert+talks+with+reporters+on+the+red+carpet+at+the+Houston+Sports+Awards+on+Jan.+30.+Coovert+was+honored+with+the+Inspiration+Award+for+his+battle+with+cancer.
Maya Ortiz
History teacher and coach Eric Coovert talks with reporters on the red carpet at the Houston Sports Awards on Jan. 30. Coovert was honored with the Inspiration Award for his battle with cancer.

History teacher and coach Eric Coovert walked through a standing ovation onto the stage at the Houston Sports Awards. In a room full of Houston sports legends, he could not believe he was being honored as the Inspiration Award winner. 

Many of Houston’s greatest sports icons, including Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon, applauded as Coovert walked to the stage at 713 Music Hall on Tuesday night.

In June, Coovert was diagnosed with lymphoma. He continued to teach and coach through his chemotherapy in the fall. In October, a video went viral showing Coovert announcing to his football team that he defeated cancer. His story reached millions.

After receiving the Inspiration Award at the Houston Sports Award show on Jan. 30, history teacher and coach Eric Coovert answers questions at a press conference. Coovert taught his last classes on Tuesday as he prepared to to be admitted to the hospital for a stem cell transplant. (Maya Ortiz)

In my eyes, Kingwood, Humble ISD, my students, my family are the true inspirations who inspired me to continue teaching and coaching,” Coovert said as he accepted the Inspiration Award. “And I cannot thank them enough. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.”

In the moment of celebration, only a handful in the room knew what was looming for Coovert. 

Earlier that day, he said goodbye to his students. Within 48 hours of leaving that stage, he was to be admitted to Methodist Hospital downtown for a stem cell transplant. 

“I’ll be in the hospital for about three weeks,” Coovert said. “And then because my immune system will actually be completely gone, I get to be like the ‘boy in the bubble’ sort of idea where I will be in isolation at my house.”

When Coovert returned from winter break, he thought his cancer treatments were over and that he was back to full-time teaching. Five days into the semester, though, doctors recommended a stem cell transplant as a preventative measure. 

The procedure and recovery will take about two months. He hopes to return to Kingwood Park by mid-April. 

“With lymphoma, there’s always a worry that some of the cancer cells, not lymph nodes, but cancer cells themselves are still floating around in my system,” Coovert said. “So the thought process is they’re going to give me more chemo, which is higher dosage to completely wipe my whole entire system – all my red, white blood cells, all that stuff – and then reinject stem cells that they’ve already collected whenever I was in remission.”

The procedure means at least two months of no teaching and no coaching. 

“There’s no better profession, in my opinion,” Coovert said. “Not being able to interact with [students], make jokes, be sarcastic, tell horrible history jokes or dad jokes, that’s going to be a struggle I’m going to have to face.”

While Coovert will miss a few months with his students, the potential payoff made the decision easier. He wants to watch his five-month-old daughter grow up. 

The goal of the treatment is to remove cancer cells if they exist and for Coovert’s body to restart itself with cleaner and healthier blood cells, which give him an improved chance of beating cancer if it returns.    

“Research showed that actually people have been cured with this treatment,” Coovert said. “That’s the ultimate dream.” 

While Coovert is in the hospital during treatment, his wife and daughter are moving in with her parents, and their dog is being boarded. Even though he has been warned that this treatment will make him much sicker than his chemotherapy treatments made him in the fall, his concern is with his family.

“Not being able to take care of (my wife) during a few weeks is giving me a lot of anxiety,” he said. 

Coovert said goodbye to his students Tuesday with parties in each class. Students brought food to share so Coovert could enjoy treats before his hospital diet began. Later that night, he stole some of his wife’s braised ribs from her dinner plate at the Houston Sports Awards.

And while Wednesday was supposed to be reserved for running tests at the hospital and preparing to be admitted on Thursday, Coovert couldn’t stay away from Kingwood Park. He showed up with his hospital bracelet on his right wrist and his Inspiration Award trophy in his hand. He wanted to see the students and colleagues who have rallied behind him one more time.

“Two months. I’m not looking forward to it,” Coovert said. “But I know it’s the best thing. As I’ve always said to everyone, as long as you guys get something out of this, then the world’s getting better. I care about the kids. I care about you guys way too much. So I’m going to miss y’all.”

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