McKinney North High School opened its doors to a single freshman class. The large school felt empty to those in attendance, but with no upperclassmen, they were seniors for four years. The small student population was led by an even smaller group of football players who spent upwards of 10 hours a day with one another between classes, workouts and games. This group of players grew so close, it was hard to let anyone else in — that is until they were juniors and a few hotshot sophomores got the call up to varsity in 2002. Two of these players, Austin York and Matt Self, would make such an impact in this tight knit group that when they lost their lives following their junior year football season, the team was left in shambles.
The members of the 2003-04 Bulldog football team could talk all night about the brothers they lost 10 years ago in a a violent shooting March 12, 2004, on Truett Street that left four people dead. They talk about the funny memories and the goodness in their hearts. Although Matt and Austin were a year younger than North’s first-ever senior class, the bond they built was a strong one. So when Matt and Austin were killed that spring, those seniors found it hard to focus on graduation and their own futures.
“It was very tough. The seniors that were close to Matt and Austin, as well as Alex and Lynard (Barbosa), were already in a big moment in their lives,” teammate Stuart Thompson said. “We were about to graduate high school and enjoy the summer before college. This is what we had all been waiting for. But after March 12, I didn’t want to leave McKinney. I wanted to stay close to my friends and family who knew the boys.”
Like most people involved that night, Stuart couldn’t believe it when he heard about the shooting, which would become the most notorious crime in the city’s history. No one thought a crime of this nature could happen in a small town like McKinney, especially not to two boys so young.
“It was like something you watched on TV or in a movie. You never believed it would happen in your town. This event is what really broke McKinney out of that ‘small town’ feel,” Stuart said. “It was hard to sink in. We were high school kids playing football. That was the way it was supposed to be. We weren’t supposed to be involved in an unsolved quadruple murder.”
It would take years for that quadruple murder to be solved, and after a while Stuart decided he “couldn’t live day-to-day worried about whether or not someone was going to be held responsible,” so he had to attempt to move on. It wasn’t easy for anyone, especially for boys who played in a sport that celebrates the necessity of toughness.
The masculinity of football left many of the Bulldogs feeling like they couldn’t cry, that they had to be beacons of hope for the rest of their school and city. They wouldn’t get their chance to grieve for some time after the whirlwind of funerals, memorials and comforting.
“We kind of had to stand up tall, tough it up and deal with it. Myself, I had a group at church who I had to be the strong person for,” teammate Blake Giles said. “It took me months to grieve, and it was a long process. Still is. We lost two brothers at the same time. To heal from that, this is one of the hardest things I have ever done.”
Angry, hurt and annoyed with all the attention they received, the players on that team only had each other to help focus on their emotions. Counseling and therapy didn’t seem right to them and the constant questioning drove them away. The only place these players could find peace was with each other, whether it was on the field or at home. They still think back on the odd, yet pleasing silence of an entire football team on a field, not saying a thing, just being near each other.
Ironically, while being with each other in a workout facility or practice field was peaceful, being on a field competing in the game they loved was the last thing they wanted to do. What once played such an important role in their lives, football now seemed like the last thing on the minds of those who were close to Austin and Matt.
While many members of they 2003 football team graduated and attempted to begin their own lives, a few players were stuck behind to attempt to bring another successful season to the school’s young athletic program. One such player was Lynard Barbosa, who arguably lost more than anyone that spring. Lynard was best friends with Matt and they, alongside Austin York and Austin Bastian, were some of the few younger players on the team. As Lynard’s senior year came around, the quarterback was expected to lead his team that fall. But after losing his two friends, his brother and his aunt (Mark and Rosa Barbosa were also victims of the crime), Lynard couldn’t focus forward.
“What Lynard was going through, to try and focus on football, was very, very hard for him,” said Shawn Pratt, who was North’s head football coach at the time. “You’re missing two teammates, and your quarterback lost his brother and aunt. It was impossible. There was a dark cloud there, and we did more counseling than we did teaching football that year.”
Austin Bastian understood Lynard’s lack of urge to play. The two grew up on the field with Matt and Austin York, and being out there without them just didn’t seem to be the same.
“There were a lot of days when very little effort was put on the field that next year, at least for myself anyways,” Bastian said. “I didn’t want to be out there. It didn’t feel right. It was just weird being out there.”
Things are a bit different for that 2003 team, 10 years later. The city has grown in population and construction. Pratt is athletic director for McKinney ISD. And there’s even a third high school with the opening of McKinney Boyd in 2006. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the respect McKinney North has for the memory of Austin and Matt.
Colin Bado wasn’t able to make it back to McKinney on March 12 of any year until last year, but when he did he knew he had to stop by his friends’ parking spots. The reserved spots are off limits to all, so when Colin bent down to kiss the spot, the current students were alarmed and confronted him.
“Those parking spots have not changed over the years; the students do not walk on them,” Colin said. “But it was great to see the respect that they still have there.”
It was Colin and his fellow teammates that painted those spots all those years ago after their friends’ deaths. And Wednesday, they will be celebrating their friends’ lives at those very spots. The family and friends of those killed on Truett Street will join together to find the happiness out of such a tragic event, 10 years later.
“March is difficult to endure, but with the presence of loved ones, I am able to conjure a smile during such a difficult time.” Colin said.
Editor’s Note: This is the sixth part of a seven-part TSB series, Truett St. Tragedy, Then and Now, a detailed look at the murders of Austin York, Matt Self, and Mark and Rosa Barbosa. The murders took place 10 years ago. Our city lost its innocence that night. So did all of us who lived through it. We’re forever changed. We hope you’ll continue with us on this heartbreaking, yet hopefully inspiring journey.
TRUETT ST. TRAGEDY, THEN AND NOW
-Part 6: A Team of Bulldogs Will Never Forget Their Brothers
The final segment of the series will run Thursday, March 13.