The shooting death of Aplington-Parkersburg football coach Ed Thomas is a tough blow to a community still in recovery mode after a tornado demolished part of the town just over a year ago.

Thomas was the school’s football coach for 34 seasons. The coach’s home was demolished by the tornado and Thomas led efforts to rebuild the school’s football facilities so his team could play on its own field last fall.

Aplington-Parkersburg superintendent Jon Thompson has been counseling some of the 50 students who were in the school’s weight room this morning and witnessed the shooting.

“Ed was the type of man who was not afraid to show emotions and, absolutely, emotions have hit all of us here in town — Aplington and Parkersburg. It’s been devastating,” Thompson says. “For me, personally, I’ve had moments of sobbing and crying. I’ve had moments of trying to think like a superintendent. It’s hard when you know the man as a professional, you know the man as a friend and then you’ve also had your sons play football for him.”

Four former Aplington-Parkersburg players are on NFL rosters today and, in 2003, Thomas was named the high school player of the year by the NFL. The superintendent says Thomas was more than just a coach to the town.

“I can’t describe how emotional it is for all of us to lose such a great person,” Thompson says. “…Him as a person, that’s another loss to our community today. That’s how he’s best going to be remembered — not as the football coach but as a good person, a good Christian and a tremendous role model for us all.”

Thomas coached Aplington-Parkersburg to two state titles.

“I think Ed’s resume, so to speak, as a football coach will stand forever,” the superintendent says. “It’s rivaled by only a few schools in the state.”

According to the superintendent, the shooting happened at 7:45 this morning in the weight-training room. A suspect is in custody.

(On-the-scene reporting from Elwin Huffman of KOEL.)