Prairie Lea classmates, coaches recall Cubit
By Kyle Mooty
He was always there for friends and family, classmates and teammates, coaches and teachers, lending a hand to help whenever needed.
Now, there is a void when people look for DJ Cubit.
“It’s gonna be different,” Prairie Lea Football Coach Steven Brown said, reminiscing just over two weeks after the passing of the junior-to-be and 16-year-old Cubit. “You’re expecting to see him walking down the hall with that quirky smile. You want to call his name, but he’s not there. That’s the hardest part of getting over this. I want him to be there. Especially when we’re at the gym before we go out on the field. I know the spot he’d be sitting in, and I’ll look at that area a lot. I just look to see if he’s there. I mention his name a lot. He’s just not there.”
Cubit, also an honor roll student, was an all-district, multi-sport athlete for the Indians. And though he tried, he was not so good at golf… or dancing.
Students, coaches, and teachers at Prairie Lea High gathered to tell stories about their friend, Cubit. And while some tears were shed, rehashing stories about him brought some much-needed laughter and something Cubit’s presence often produced – smiles all around.
Dominic Lynn Cubit Jr. died in the early morning hours of July 24 after being critically injured in a car wreck the previous afternoon (Sunday) while riding with friends to go swimming at the San Marcos River. He was air-evacuated from the crash shortly after the 3 p.m. wreck, but was pronounced dead at about 1:30 a.m.
School begins Aug. 28 at Prairie Lea. The junior class has been narrowed to just 10, but the school has lost much more than a number.
In fact, Cubit’s number will be retired in both football and basketball for the Indians, except for a special player chosen each game to wear Cubit’s No. 11 in football this season at Prairie Lea, something Brown thought was an appropriate gesture for the memory of the lost player.
Brown remembered Oklahoma University doing so for a player (Austin Box) who lost his life in 2011. Ole Miss still does likewise in memory of Chucky Mullins.
The Prairie Lea girls’ basketball and volleyball teams will honor Cubit by wearing pink ribbons in their hair. Pink, senior Daniela Sanchez said, was Cubit’s favorite color. The Lady Indians will wear DJ’s number on their shooting shirts, and not only will the football team at PLHS wear decals remembering Cubit on their helmets, but Luling High School, where Cubit attended the seventh grade, has asked to do the same.
Brown has named a play in DJ’s honor. It’s a sweep.
Cubit played last season at linebacker and nose guard, making Second Team All-District.
This year he was going to be linebacker as well as a running back on offense.
Cubit was also All-District in basketball, and he had started playing on a Select team — the Texas Hardwood Prospects of Kyle along with a Prairie Lea teammate Gabe Garcia.
Prairie Lea played at Luling in volleyball on Tuesday and a moment of silence was to be held prior to the game.
Cubit had that kind of effect on the people he knew, and at Prairie Lea School, he knew everyone and vice-versa. School Athletic Director and head basketball coach Jess Stephens said it could have been that Cubit was a large guy 6-foot, 2-inches and about 185 pounds, but he believes it was much more.
“DJ was a compassionate young man,” Stephens said. “He cared about the well-being of all of the students in school; he had no problem befriending the younger kids and helping out any way that was needed. We would have conversations about the world, and he was always talking about his ideas of making the world a better place, not for him but for everyone else.
He had a perspective on life that focused on the big picture, not just himself.
“We had many conversations where he would ask my thoughts on things going on in the world. He was always open to listening to others’ thoughts or beliefs so he could weigh them and use them to continue to grow as a better human. He would also challenge me to see things from a different perspective. He was wise beyond his years.”
Maegan Zapata was one of Cubit’s friends. She was at home when Cubit’s mother, Kristin Nevill called Zapata’s aunt about the accident. Bryant Garcia, one of the passengers in the car, was also among the pallbearers for Cubit’s funeral. Members of the Prairie Lea Football Team will serve as honorary pallbearers. The others in the vehicle besides Cubit were treated for minor injuries and released.
School begins at Prairie Lea on Monday, Aug. 28.
“It’ll be different for sure,” said Lane Fiscus, a friend and teammate of Cubit. “It’s going to feel like something is missing. He connected to everybody. Even if he wasn’t talking to somebody and they were around he would bring them into the conversation.”
Cubit would have been a junior this school year, leaving that class with just 10 students this fall.
Becky McCelvey, a cosmetology teacher at Prairie Lea, said the school will do something at graduation to honor Cubit.
“We will honor him in a big way,” she said. “We’re all grieving. He was a leader of some of the best kids in the world here, and he shined out here.”
For many, the last time they saw Cubit was the day before the wreck, Saturday, when he helped paint the bleachers at the football stadium. Cubit asked his mother to join him in helping paint and she was more than happy to oblige.
Those on hand in a meeting room at Prairie Lea – seniors Daniela Sanchez, Kaylie Molina, Maegan Zapata, and Bryant Garcia, along with juniors Gabriel Garcia, and Lane Fiscus, coaches Jess Stephens and Steven Brown, and teacher Becky McCelvey — shared many emotional stories as they remembered Cubit, but he also brought them to laughter as they recalled their friend.
“DJ was like a joy,” Stephens said. “He could make you laugh. He could make you think.”
Bryant Garcia said Cubit would compete against him in the weight room, always wanting to add another plate on the bar.
Zapata said Cubit was a big fan of Taylor Swift and that he was usually the first one on the dance floor, although that was something he had not mastered.
“He’d have everyone laughing,” Bryant Garcia said.
In fact, Cubit’s mother said she and DJ were going to start taking line-dancing classes soon.
“When we had a field day with the little kids, they turned on line-dance music and he was the only one dancing, Molina said. She also said Cubit “would swear” he was the best three-point shooter, and that he loved watching volleyball so much he was hoping Prairie Lea would start a boys’ team.
“During our first volleyball game, it was weird because DJ always started our chants,” Zapata said.
Prairie Lea had a golf team last season, and its first outing was at the district match.
Stephens joked that there was “some work to do” with Cubit’s swing, but he was out there anyway. Cubic stuck around in the excessive heat as Molina finished her last hole on the girls’ side, carrying her bag.
“He claimed he was Tiger Woods,” laughed Zapata.
Stephens said that epitomized Cubit, swinging so hard trying to figure out the game.
“DJ made it to state in Skills USA in Cosmetology,” she said. “He first tried to do a barber haircut on a manikin. He kept messing up. He kept recreating it. He finally just did it like a tic-tac-to. It kind of got worse so we just threw that manikin in the trash can and he went to color. He did great on that. That’s kind of how he viewed life. He didn’t let mistakes get him down. He just tried something new.”
Zapata said he was always the last one to help clean up after retirement or graduation parties.
Athletically, Cubit was special. Stephens felt as if Cubit would be one of the best 1A players in Texas this season.
“DJ started putting the work in,” Stephens said. “We played at a high level and almost went to state last season. People were going to see how special he was.”
Brown said Cubit had a wingspan of someone six inches taller.
Gabriel Garcia recalled during their freshman year he was having trouble making good tackles. Cubit let him practice tackling him… once. “He said the next one won’t be so easy,” recalled Garcia.
McCelvey said she noticed “something magical” happening on the basketball court last season.
“They were playing together as a team,” McCelvey said. “They had learned to play as a team with everybody supporting each other.”
Cubit was also an outstanding track athlete for the Indians, particularly throwing the discus.
“DJ just had big ideas,” Stephens said. “He sent me a text and said, ‘Hey Coach, do you think for our summer workout we can make it like an NFL combine?’ He wasn’t scared of an idea and would just throw it out. What DJ showed, I think these kids have too. He was part of that. These kids brought out the best in DJ and he brought out the best in them.”
McCelvey said life was just more fun with Cubit around.
“He just looked at everything as an adventure,” his teacher said. “He was all-in with everything he did. He was so well-rounded.”
Stephens said Cubit was very close to his family as well as friends, and that probably 10 to 15 students would say they were his best friend. “I’d tell you I was his favorite teacher, even knowing that he probably had seven or eight because he made you feel that way,” Stephens said.
As President of his Sophomore Class, Cubit had dreams becoming an architect and maybe playing college basketball.
Cubit’s father was Muslim, but DJ was searching for answers within Christianity. Ficus recalls his friend’s favorite Bible verses as Jeremiah 29:11 and Philippians 3:14.
“DJ was called by God,” Brown said. “His light was gonna shine brighter than the normal individual. It’s just the way DJ was.”
Molina added, “DJ just gave you a sense of comfort.”
Meanwhile, a Go Fund Me account has been established for Dominic “DJ” Cubit.
A local church is providing counseling for students and family alike in the Prairie Lea community.
Cubit was born in Corpus Christi on April 13, 2007, to parents Kristin Nevill and Dominic Cubit Sr. His father has been incarcerated for several years and will remain there for several more. He watched the funeral via social media.
DJ is also survived by siblings Darius Cubit, Alianna Cubit, Kelsie Cubit, and Aryanna Cubitt, as well as his grandparents Brad Nevill, Kelly and Jesse Zumwalt, and Cecelia and Gilbert Cubit.
Cubit’s funeral on Aug. 5 at the Luling Civic Center with about 300 in attendance. Although the burial at the Atlanta Cemetery was private, about 100 people showed up to pay their respects.
There was also a Celebration of Life held at the Prairie Lea Gymnasium.
“I did some math and based on the number of years humans have existed and how many humans there have been, the odds of my life intersecting with DJ’s for just one of his 16 years was 37 trillion to 1,” Stephens said. “That’s the same odds as you winning the lottery not just once but 100,000 times. As painful as losing him is, I am grateful that I was lucky enough to have known DJ.
“DJ had big dreams for his life and while I may never understand why this happened it is now a part of his story. Those of us that were beyond lucky for knowing DJ have a choice: we can choose to remain sad or angry or guilty, or we can choose to take everything good that DJ showed us and spread it to our families, our friends and even our enemies, and furthermore the people we haven’t even met yet. And if we carry forward all of the amazing gifts that DJ gave us, then the impact DJ had on this world will not end with this tragedy but will go on forever.”