Before there was Dematrius Davis, there was Bobby Reid.
Reid was the North Shore four-star QB who ended up winning a state title and signing with Oklahoma State.
But before there was Bobby Reid, there was Willie Gaston.
Gaston was a fierce competitor, who put North Shore on the statewide map under legendary coach David Aymond.
“I knew Willie was going to a great player as a ninth grader, but I coached him hard,” Aymond, who went 206-41 as the Mustangs’ head coach. “He was so competitive and still is today. That’s what makes him a great coordinator.”
It’s come full-circle for Gaston as the former superstar is now the offensive coordinator for one of the most dynamic offenses in the state that faces Cy-Fair in the Regional Finals this weekend.
Gaston was one of those guys who played 100-percent all the time with a giant chip on his shoulder. At 5-foot-7, he always had to fight for playing time.
“I was our seventh-grade ‘B-Team’ quarterback,” Gaston said. “You couldn’t tell me I wasn’t the best quarterback out there. I knew I was good, but I was always in trouble. Being young, you don’t see that being the quarterback has responsibility. Your coaches have to be able to rely on you, and you have to be mature.
“I got it together and played on the freshman team. Then I was the second-string varsity QB as a sophomore,” he laughed. “I was so competitive. I wanted to start. When I got my chance, I made the most of it.”
Gaston was the QB1 his junior and senior season, becoming the talk of the community.
“When you are the quarterback at North Shore, people in the community know you and the younger generation looks up to you," he said. "People still come up and ask me about games I played in decades ago. Now I coach a lot of the sons and grandsons of people who used to watch me play.”
Gaston was a tremendous dual-threat quarterback entering his senior season, but it was the spring of his junior year when he faced his toughest competition.
“I got a little more mature, a little bigger and faster. Our defense, however, was loaded. We got our butt kicked every day in the spring facing our own defense. It made us so much better going into the season.”
The ‘Stangs were rolling in 2000, winning district over rival Baytown Lee and legendary coach ** Olin and QB Drew Tate (Iowa). It was the last game in the old Dement Stadium in Galena Park.
“That was an unforgettable year,” he said. “So many big games against great players.”
None bigger than the collision-course Regional Quarterfinal against Madison High School and another talented QB – Vince Young.
“North Shore vs Madison is what North Shore vs Katy was last week,” he said. “That kicked off what I think of as ‘big-time’ high school football games in the city of Houston. It was me against Vince Young, who was the God of high school football at that time. It was in the Astrodome, which was the biggest stage and we didn’t disappoint.”
North Shore lost 61-58 in what some consider the greatest game in Houston high school football history.
Gaston would sign with the University of Houston as an athlete. He would end up being a four-year starter for the Cougars, who returned to prominence under new coach Art Briles.
“I loved UH,” he said. “I think our class really got it rolling again with coach Briles and we won a conference title. I had to learn an entirely new position as a cornerback. I challenged myself to be the best and I felt like I did. I never wanted to be on the sidelines, so I made the transition.”
He signed as a free-agent with Baltimore and proved to himself he could play at the highest level.
“I’ll never forget a scout from Green Bay Alonzo Highsmith telling me, ‘you’re just a football player and you have a shot at the NFL,’” he said. “I’ll never forget that vote of confidence.”
He made the practice squad and played a few games in the league before shutting it down the next year.
Gaston would then be hired by Aymond as his night grade DB/QB coach. He would move up to become the running backs coach, before taking over the coordinator position three years ago.
“Coach Aymond changed the culture here,” he said. “Coach Kay is doing an amazing job sustaining the program. Coach Kay can coach on any level – high school, college or pro. He’s that good.
“The kids are invested here,” he said. “They have grown up going to North Shore games. They can’t wait to be a part of it as little kids. There’s a tremendous sense of pride and community here. I’m proud to be from North Shore. I tell our guys all the time that I know what it’s like to wear that Mustang on that helmet.”
Gaston was fiery and competitive as a player and that remains the same as a coach. Now he coaches another talented QB walking the halls of the Eastside school – Dematrius Davis.
“We are totally opposite people,” he laughs about Davis. “I love that kid, but he’s so calm, cool and collection that it frustrates me. I get fired up when I coach and I ask him, ‘are you hearing me?’ He looks at me with a stare and says, ‘I got it, coach.’”
Gaston took the wraps off Davis last year as a freshman and it’s paid off. He’s had a great encore sophomore campaign.
“He’s so smart,” Gaston said. “He cares about his teammates and he doesn’t think he’s better than anyone else. When it comes to competing, he’s a lot like me.”
“Honestly, he’s going to be best to ever come out of here,” Gaston said.
If anyone would know, it would be Gaston.