The Santa Rosa County athletic community is mourning the loss of a veteran high school sports coach due to COVID-19.
Milton High School track and field coach Joe Austin passed away on Sunday night after an extended battle with coronavirus. Austin was also currently the Dean of Students at Martin Luther King Middle School in Milton.
Austin's coaching career extended well over a decade in Santa Rosa County as he previously served as an assistant football coach at Navarre in the mid-2000's.
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Florida state representative Jayer Williamson mourned Austin's passing on his personal Facebook page Monday morning.
"Joe Austin was such a great guy. Mr. Positive, a gentle giant and always a great sense of humor ... Just so hard to believe. Rest in peace, Big Joe. A lot of folks are better because of your short time with us. Love ya, brother!"
Fort Walton Beach football and track and field coach Kevin Rollins took to Facebook to eulogize his friend while urging people to take COVID-19 seriously.
"I’ve known Joe since 2004 coaching football and track & field against him. Tremendous guy ... The invisible monster (COVID) is for real. Don’t take it lightly and just because it affected one person one way, doesn’t mean it will affect you the same."