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Book Review: Draw the Line – Jeff Traylor, the Gilmer Buckeyes, and a Season Deep in the Heart of East Texas

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Each summer as the UTSA sports calendar dries up, I always challenge myself to read a book or two that will make me better at covering UTSA football. Often these books focus on historical analysis of college football or schematic strategy, but sometimes I’m blessed with a read that gives me some additional insight into the minds of the folks who have helped build UTSA football.

Given my annual tradition, I was quite thrilled to find that this summer a University of Mississippi professor would be releasing a profile on Jeff Traylor and his rise to Texas high school football legend status. My pre-ordered copy arrived last week, and I tore through the entire book in just a few sittings. While I’m typically a slow and methodical reader who puts away a chapter or two each night before bed, Dr. Hunter Taylor’s latest work was hard for a Texas football junky like myself to put down. With names like Blake Lynch, Daylon Mack, G.J. Kinne, D.W. Rutledge, Ryan Mallet, etc. popping up on each page, this book is an absolute treasure for folks who follow Texas football with a passion.

While Jeff Traylor is the main protagonist of the book, Dr. Taylor wisely spends a lot of time focusing on the coaches who mentored Jeff, as well as the coaches who stood by his side as Traylor built the Gilmer program into a power house.

That long list of accomplished coaches includes two current UTSA staffers — Jeff’s brother Kurt (Assistant Offensive Line Coach) and Matt Turner (Chief of Staff). While Draw the Line doesn’t spend much time discussing Traylor’s time at UTSA, getting to know Kurt and Coach Turner a bit better was a highlight of the book for me as a UTSA fan.

The book was incredibly complimentary of Matt Turner’s ability to lead and develop not just football players but men of great moral standing. This quote from former NFL quarterback Josh McCown in the Player’s Tribune speaks measures to the type of coach and person Turner is. UTSA is clearly lucky to have Turner as part of the program.

I brought his lessons with me to every quarterback room I’ve ever been in. His voice has been with me throughout my entire career. I see the game through his lens. He’s the best coach I’ve ever been around, and also one of the best humans. He’s one of those people who you are better just for having known.

Josh McCown – Player’s Tribune

Reading through the book’s depiction of Traylor’s coaching career presents many fascinating similarities and comparisons to Traylor’s time in San Antonio. So many of the coach’s successes and challenges, methods, and decisions were mirrored in situations in Big Sandy, Jacksonville, and Gilmer many years ago which are discussed in Draw the Line.

Perhaps most interesting is the ties between Traylor’s programs and the legendary Converse Judson program in San Antonio. Draw the Line details how Judson’s obsession with program organization, discipline, and using success on the football field to build pride in the community influenced the staffs Traylor worked on early in his career. Traylor would take those values and ideals and expand on them to fit the communities that he coached in.

When legendary former Converse Judson Head Coach D.W. Rutledge spoke at Jeff Traylor’s introductory press conference at UTSA I knew it was a big indication of Traylor’s strong relationships with Texas high school coaches. I had no idea how much the Judson program itself had influenced Traylor’s coaching style until reading Draw the Line. I have an entirely new appreciation for this big moment in UTSA history after reading Draw the Line.

Of course the Judson connection for Traylor came full circle as Traylor ended up leading a group of Judson alumni to the Roadrunners’ first conference championship.

The book’s primary message of coaching from a position of love instead of intimidation carry over from Gilmer to San Antonio surprisingly well. Draw the Line reiterates many times that Traylor’s success at Gilmer was owed to his authentic love for his players, and a desire to develop them as both football players and men, a message we’ve seen repeated at UTSA through Traylor’s time in San Antonio.

Perhaps most exciting for UTSA fans is the last line of the book, a direct quote from Jeff Traylor which will surely get the fanbase fired up after they complete this great book. Click the button below to purchase a copy of the paperback or a Kindle eBook from Amazon.

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