The first time Rokky Mullikin saw Don Wayt in the locker room at White Oak High School, Mullikin had second thoughts about his move to the school to play football.
“I said ‘Wow. That’s a full-grown man,’” Mullikin said of Wayt, who later became a lifelong friend. “But, he was always extremely kind. He was very talented, and always looked out for me.”
Wayt, a 1972 White Oak graduate who went on to become a professional wrestler and later a prison Chaplain among other things, died on July 3 — three weeks before he would have turned 67.
“I moved to White Oak from Karnack when I was in the eighth grade,” Mullikin said. “I wanted to play football, and they didn’t play in Karnack. I met Don when he was a senior and I was a freshman. I somehow got moved up to the varsity level, so we got to play together.”
Wayt was a three-year letterman (1969-71) in football for the Roughnecks and a two-time all-district performer who also earned All East Texas and All State honors on the football field. He helped lead White Oak to a 37-3 record, three district titles and two regional titles.
He was also a member of the Roughneck 1972 track and field state championship team, throwing the shot put.
A Saturday, Feb. 5 1972 story in the Longview Morning Journal chronicled the 6-1, 240-pound Wayt’s signing of a “pre-enrollment application” to play football at the University of Texas-Arlington, but Wayt’s plans changed.
“Everyone thought he would go play college ball, but he stepped into wrestling and had a long career,” said Mullikin.
Wayt’s wrestling career took him around the world, and he earned several titles — including Pacific Coast Heavyweight Champion, Pacific Coast Tag Team Champion and Canadian Tag Team title champ.
In 1998, he began a 20-plus year ministry working as Chaplain at the Billy Moore Correctional Facility in Overton. He later moved back to White Oak and became a coach.
“Don never really sought the spotlight, but it always seemed to find him because of the way he treated people and the way he lived,” Mullikin said. “He was a unique person. He had the ability to make everyone think and feel like he cared about them more than anyone else.”
Current White Oak head football coach and athletic director Kris Iske said Wayt was a constant source of inspiration for him, the other coaches and the players.
“Besides my dad, coach Wayt influenced me more than any other man in my life,” Iske said. “He always encouraged me and prayed with and for me. He had a way of making coaches and players feel good about themselves. He gave weekly devotionals to our football team during the season. He was a Godly man that I truly admired.”
John Frazier, a 1991 White Oak graduate who carved out an 84-51 record in 12 seasons at West Rusk as that school’s head football coach and athletic director, said Wayt was truly “Mr. White Oak.”
“Big D was an incredible man,” Frazier said. “He was there for me personally and professionally when I needed him. If there was a hall of fame for being a great Christian, family man, friend, mentor or supporter of anything White Oak, he would be a unanimous first ballot pick.”
Longtime Roughneck football and track coach Richard Burks said Wayt was always willing and ready to help students, other coaches and even teachers on campus.
“Big Daddy was part of the athletic program for a long time,” Burks said. “He was great with kids. He was an assistant offensive line coach with me and a teacher’s aid on the high school campus. He had a knack for being able to read a kid that was struggling emotionally. He did a great job counseling with those kids, and even a teacher or two probably. Even when he was not with the school anymore, he was always around the games. You could always bet that — win or lose — Big Daddy would shake your hand, give you a hug and let you know he loved you and to keep your chin up.”
Iske said he has no doubt Wayt will be watching over the Roughnecks this fall.
“Coach Wayt will definitely be missed by our athletes and coaches, but he will be watching us from above with the best seat in the house,” Iske said.
Visitation for Mr. Wayt is set for 6-8 p.m. on Friday at Rader Funeral Home in Longview. Services are scheduled for 10 a.m. on Saturday at LifeBridge Christian Center in Longview. The family has asked that everyone wear their White Oak gear (maroon, grey and white) to celebrate the “power of WO.”
In lieu of flowers, the family has also asked that donations be made to the White Oak Fellowship of Christian Athletes.