Before Alice football games, it became a pre-game ritual for coach Tom Essex to walk around and hug coaches and players.

He was often so wrapped up in the emotions of finally getting to the sidelines on a Friday night and all of the work and sacrifices it took to get there that the old coach was often teary-eyed. That was Essex — a brilliant football mind with the temper of a stern leader and a soft side to match.

Essex, who was the Coyotes’ co-defensive coordinator between 2005 and 2007, died early Thursday morning in his home in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Essex was 65. Alice coach Brent Davis said Essex impacted many of the people he was around.

“He influenced many coaches throughout his career,” Davis said. “Just like I told our kids when I told them that he had died, coach Essex was one of the finest coaches I have ever been around. He was one of the most respected coaches anywhere in Texas or New Mexico. He influenced the lives of many coaches and young people during his career.”

In his time in Alice, his fiery post-game pep-talks to the team became his trademark and a tradition of the program.

Funeral services for Essex are Saturday in Las Cruces. Getz Funeral Home in Las Cruces is in charge of arrangements.