Wife remembers hero husband; ESPN to honor slain Parkland coaches with ESPY award

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ESPN‘s Best Coach Award will go to the three Stoneman Douglas coaches who died trying to save students from gunfire. (WPEC)

A touching tribute to the three hero coaches who died while shielding students from gunfire during the massacre at Stoneman Douglas High School.

ESPN announced Wednesday that the ESPYs are breaking tradition for this year’s Best Coach Award, awarding it posthumously to heroes Aaron Feis, Scott Beigel and Chris Hixon.

Feis was an assistant football coach, Beigel coached cross country and Hixon coached wrestling while also serving as Stoneman Douglas High School’s Athletic Director.

Hixon came face to face with school gunman Nikolas Cruz, but was a hero long before the school tragedy.

Widow Debbi Hixon shared a side of him many do not know about.

She met Chris when he was in the military.

“He was active duty in the Navy for six years," she said. "Then got out because we wanted to start a family."

Altogether, Hixon was a U.S. Navy veteran with 27 years of service. He went to Iraq during the Gulf War in 1991.

“The people in the service sent me notes and messages about how he always stepped up,” Debbi Hixon said.

She said he was always very passionate about sports and loved helping students.

“As soon as I saw what was going on on the news, I immediately knew,” she said.

Moments after hearing there was an active shooter at the school on Valentine’s Day, Hixon ran into the freshman building and came face-to-face with Cruz. Debbi Hixon believes he tried to tackle him.

“I don’t even think he thought about it," she said. "I think it was just an instinct, you know?”

The Hixon family is thankful ESPN is honoring all three heroes with this year’s Best Coach award. She said the award doesn’t define their death, but rather how they lived: to be the best coaches they could be.

“He was really quite an extraordinary person. We are so lucky to have had him,” Debbie said.

The 49-year-old was laid to rest with full military honors at South Florida National Cemetery in Lake Worth.

His awards and decorations include:

  • 3 Navy Achievement Medals
  • Good Conduct Medal
  • Navy Reserve Meritorious Service Medal
  • Navy Reserve Medal

Hixon served in the Persian Gulf during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. He was the Athletic Director and Security Monitor at Blanche Ely High School, South Broward High School and most recently at Stoneman Douglas High School. He was also honored through his Athletic Director career with a variety of awards, like the 2007 FIAAA Meritorious Award, 2008 NIAAA State of Merit award and 2017 BCAA Athletic Director of the year.

According to the Associated Press, the award has previously gone to coaches for their work on the field.

The men are being honored for their "immeasurable bravery in the face of danger and for their ultimate sacrifice to protect the lives of countless students,” according to Alison Overholt, vice president and editor-in-chief of ESPN The Magazine.

Loved ones will receive the award during the show on July 18.

The family of Aaron Feis issued a statement to CBS12 News:

While our hearts are heavy with this tragic loss of life, it means a great deal to us to have Aaron honored in this way for his heroism.

CBS12 News reached out, but have not heard back from Scott Beigel’s family as of Monday night.