Courtesy photo

Whether it was his coaches or his friends, everyone remembers the smile.

Joseph Alaniz, a 2014 graduate of Harker Heights who died in a car accident east of Marble Falls on Tuesday, always had that smile.

And for many, knowing Alaniz was always going to be there, with that big smile, was what separated him from the ordinary student.

“Especially with teenagers, and the ups and downs and all the emotions that kids go through, Joe was calming,” said Robert Hagey, who coached Alaniz on the offensive line for four years in high school.

But that infectious personality wasn’t just limited to his football teammates or his classmates.

“He welcomed me here,” Heights head football coach Jerry Edwards said.

For his friends, the upbeat personality was just part of who Alaniz was, no matter the situation.

It was the type of personality that helped classmate and teammate Damaria Moon go from a difficult transition to a new school in eighth grade to a smooth one after just one lunch period, in which Alaniz and his friends embraced him on the second day of school.

And it was the type of personality that Tony Barnes, also a classmate and teammate, came to know in six years of friendship after meeting on the seventh-grade football team.

“The smile he always had on his face, that’s always been Joe,” Barnes said. “He’s always been kind, he always helped anybody that needed help.”

On Tuesday, Barnes did his best to help honor the memory of his friend, starting a Twitter movement in hopes that rapper J. Cole, whose music Alaniz loved dearly, might acknowledge one of his biggest fans.

On Wednesday, less than 24 hours later, the rapper responded, saying, “I’m sure he’s somewhere smiling knowing he got friends like you.”

For his friends and peers, the movement was the least they could do for someone who touched so many while he was alive.

It was only fitting that J. Cole mentioned the smile.

“That’s just who Joseph was,” Moon said. “His spirit was so moving that he knew somewhere that he had to touch as many souls as he could.”

Contact Jordan Mason at or 254-501-7562​

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