The team meeting that changed everything for UTSA

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Author: Jared Kalmus – @JaredUTSA 

Let’s be honest for a minute. As we sit around waiting to see if UAB can pull off a miracle this week to win the division with just 40 scholarship players available, none of us expected this type of season from UTSA. 

Sure, there was talk of improvement — “the offense can’t possibly be worse!” and excitement for the energy that a new head coach would bring. But no one in their right mind anticipated that the Roadrunners would be in conference championship contention on December 12th of 2020.

Even when the Roadrunners got out to a hot start with three consecutives wins over Texas State, SFA, and Middle Tennessee, it felt like the ensuing losses to UAB, BYU, and Army brought UTSA fans back to the reality we all anticipated before the start of the season. A blow out loss to FAU and the cancellation of the Rice game made a division championship feel like a long shot.

The fans weren’t aware of it before the game, but had the news of Sincere McCormick being unavailable and Tyrone Nix being suspended for the UTEP game leaked ahead of time, I think most of us would have felt that a loss was fairly likely, and a bowl game was unattainable.

Thankfully, the Roadrunners are coached by a man who has created a culture of “no excuses” which refuses to accept pity for any hardships they may face.

Each Friday night before kickoff for a home game, the UTSA players and staff meet on the Alamodome turf for their weekly Triangle of Toughness team meeting. With their defensive coordinator and offensive work horse missing, I imagine the mood among the player base was gloomy heading into the UTEP game. After all, the Roadrunners had the snot beat out of them last time they stepped on the football field.

Coach Traylor knew that in order to overcome the circumstance he had to pull his team back towards the three pillars which the team’s identity is built upon — Mental and Physical Toughness, Selfless Perfect Effort, and Integrity and Passion.

Under those bright lights of the Alamodome, Coach Traylor asked his team an honest question. Do you trust the next man up?

As the offense, defense, and special teams lined up in those three conjoined straight lines, Coach Traylor called out to running backs coach Julian Griffin.

“Coach Griffin, Sincere McCormick is not playing tonight, do we have any more running backs who want to play?”

Brenden Brady, B.J. Daniels, and Kaedric Cobbs stepped out into the middle of the triangle.

Coach Traylor then asked his players “Is anybody scared to run these guys out there?” 141 faces locked in on Coach Traylor and shook their head side to side.

The Roadrunners were also facing several injuries to starting offensive linemen. Traylor asked the team if there were any other offensive linemen ready to play. Offensive Line coach Matt Mattox escorted Kevin Davis and Terrell Haynes into the center of the triangle.

Coach Traylor again asked his team “Does anyone have any problem with these guys playing? Anybody got any excuses? We’re not making any excuses. All these backups have prepared all week and they’re ready to play, so let’s go play.”

Fast forward 24 hours, and UTSA demolished UTEP 52-21 as they set a program record in total yardage without the services of their star running back and two starting offensive linemen. UTSA still hasn’t lost a game since this goosebumps-inducing moment inside of a hushed Alamodome despite the continued suspension of the Roadrunners’ defensive coordinator.

Upon hearing this story in Jeff Traylor’s post-game conference after the UTEP game, I couldn’t help but pull a comparison to UTSA’s previous coach Frank Wilson. While Traylor goes to extreme measures to ensure that his players aren’t letting excuses and negativity fester in their brains, Frank Wilson literally brought a clipboard to a press conference and rattled off a list of injured players to explain away a 45-7 loss to FIU.

“In front of me I’ll go through this with you guys very briefly. Teddrick McGhee did not play, Baylen Baker did not play, Cordale Grundy did not play, Larry Stephens did not play, Clayton Johnston did not play, Kirk Johnson did not play, Carrington Kearney did not play, TJ King did not play, Jordan Wright did not play, and these are guys that are not on the long term out for the year [list]. I’m not talking about Carl Austin, a pre-season all-conference nominee and two year starter. I’m not talking about Deven Boston who was brought in to be the starter. Stanley Dye who was our starter who did not play because he was up on deck to play. Jayln Galmore did not play who is out for the year of course. Frank Harris who was going to be our star quarterback going into the season. […] Brett Winnegan, our most dynamic, explosive player who runs 4.3s didn’t take a snap this year. […] Our best return or reverse runner and guy who was emerging was Blaze Moorhead and he’s down with a season ending injury.”

Imagine watching this press conference as the guy who backs up Carl Austin or Jordan Wright. Does this fill you with a sense that you’re good enough to lead your team to a win? Does it instill in you a feeling of responsibility and trust?

If you’re a player on that UTSA team what kind of message can you take away from this statement? Do you walk away thinking your coaching staff expects to win each week? Does it inspire you to give relentless effort and hold faith in your teammates no matter the odds you face?

Out of all the great leaders I’ve had the pleasure interacting with through work, sports, or anywhere else in life, they’ve all had one characteristic in common. They fervently and relentlessly worked to help those around them build their skills and become the best version of themselves possible. Individual growth led to team growth which then led to organizational growth and lasting success both on that team and future ones.

The poor leaders I’ve served under have always shied away from responsibility and assigned blame to others or considered the challenging circumstance to be simply insurmountable. If you didn’t immediately make the leader look good, you were disposable and not worth the time of day. Personal development always took a backseat to admonishment and complaints. The focus was always on the unfairness of a negative situation, and never on a collaborative effort to tear down barriers to correct that situation. There was always a lot more whining than winning.

Watch the two press conferences linked above and let me know which coach is a great leader.

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