By Moses Leos III
Of the memories Hays High alumnus Justin Montaña had of his former head coach David Null, one during his freshman year stood out the most.
At the time, Montaña and other teammates were consistently throwing balls into the ground during a drill. Null quickly stopped the drill and proceeded to give a baseball – and science – lesson.
“He said, ‘there’s this awesome new thing I need to tell you about. You’ve probably never heard of it. It’s called gravity,’” Montaña recalled Null saying. “I remember because I wasn’t sure to laugh yet, or if he was being serious. That stuck with me for a long time.”
For Montaña and many others, the passion and intensity Null had toward not only life, but also his students and baseball, is remembered after his sudden death Sunday.
Null, 54, worked as an A.P. Chemistry teacher and as the school’s head baseball coach, a position he took was promoted to in August 2012. He also worked as the school’s linebackers coach during football season.
Hays High athletic coordinator Neal LaHue recalled Null as passionate and hard working, along with being intense and “old school.” LaHue said Null went above and beyond and that he put in the long hours.
“If he is going to do something, he is going to do something whole heartedly,” LaHue said.
He said Null was someone students responded to and players respected.
Hays High Principal David Pierce said he was in shock “like everyone else” when he received the news of Null’s death Sunday.
Pierce also recalled Null’s intensity when the two talked for the first time about a job opening at Hays High in 2009.
“He said, ‘My name is David Null … like null and void. I’m a baseball coach and science teacher, and I’d like to talk to you today,’” Pierce said. “He was coming whether I said yes or no. That’s how he was.”
Pierce said, as an educator, Null had an impact on his students, saying he had a “good rapport with his kids.” Pierce said Null’s students knew he cared about them.
Montaña looked to Null as a second father, saying Null often went out of his way to call him after practice if he felt he wasn’t feeling okay.
“It was way more than baseball for him. It was so much more,” Montaña said. “He loved the game, but he loved us more.”
But for as intense was Null was, Montaña said he also had a lighter side as well. He showed that side when he started dancing while at a team outing in Driftwood.
“This guy, he’s got knee replacements and he’s out there having a great time,” Montaña said. “No matter where he was, he was always having a great time.”
It was the lessons learned from Null, not just the ones on the diamond, that resonate with Montaña.
“I’ll take away how he taught me to be a great person in others’ lives, and to influence others,” Montaña said. “What he’s taught me, it will stay with me forever.”