Traylor & the Tree of UTSA

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Author: Jacob Mauceri – @mxuceri

It goes without saying that UTSA is currently experiencing a historic season in college football (I promise zero cheese is found within that sentence). Although naysayers plague the young university, none of what has transpired this season was a fluke by any stretch. This has been in the making since the program’s creation in 2011. Success branching week after week, and shifting heads so dramatically that UTSA is now ranked number 16 in the AP Top 25. In a way, Jeff Traylor has discovered what can make a tree grow in an environment once sowed with doubt.

Phase 1: The Roots

The rich soil that is nourished by high school football allows college football to flourish in the state of Texas. San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, and Houston dominate high school football year in and year out. Judson, Westlake, Cedar Hill, and Katy are all associated with a history of greatness. These are just four teams that most will recognize, there are many more historically successful teams scattered across the state. The success of these programs does originate from the guidance of their respective coaches, but the players’ abilities is what drives them. Their talent is invaluable to the success of the sport across all levels.

When UTSA hired Traylor, there was something deeply special about it. What sets Traylor apart from Larry Coker and Frank Wilson is one thing – his roots. Coker, an Oklahoma native and Wilson, a Louisiana native, lacked a deep connection to the Lone Star State. Traylor is a full-blooded Texan through and through. Not to say this alone limited the previous coaches, but Traylor knows the roots of the state the best. Traylor’s commitment to nurturing Texas high school football talent and coaches exemplifies his understanding of the importance of high school football in Texas. The guidance provided to these players allows them to drive in bold directions at UTSA. Sure, other Texas universities have celebrated football histories, but none of them have placed as strong of a focus on enriching Texas high school football as Jeff Traylor’s Roadrunners. This emphasis on building strong connections with Texas high school football programs is shown through sold out high school recruitment camps, and the 90 Texas native active players (out of 115) on the current 2021 roster.

Phase 2: The Heart

While a season like UTSA’s is historic, prior seasons were nowhere near as pretty. Not to say the players on previous teams weren’t talented by any means. In fact, some of the players intoxicated the fanbase with sheer skill and talent. Football is much like music though, if you aren’t working as a whole, the sum is only as good as your weakest link. Marcus Davenport, Josiah Tauaefa, and David Morgan II were all outstanding players, but never reached the sublime heights this team has due to a lack of cohesion. This isn’t the fault of any players, previous teams just didn’t adhere like the way this year’s team has.

Of course, UTSA has had other winning seasons, but the hunger for betterment is what kept the program moving forward. At each student’s orientation we are told about the unprecedented growth that the university itself has done in its short life. The football program is no exception. There is still room to grow as a brand and program. As long as certain College Football Playoff Chairs refer to the university as “USTA” there will always be hunger for more respect and recognition.

In a tree, the heartwood is dead but does not decay. The surrounding layers of bark prevent decay and strengthen the base. Although a few seasons didn’t turn out favorably, that doesn’t mean the future is doomed to fail. We are who we are because of our past. A loss is a loss, all we can do is pick ourselves up and start all over again. The hunger for more only encases UTSA’s strength as a program even more. Although students and alumni of the past were filled with doubt as to the direction of the program, Traylor reinvigorated a university to maximum overdrive.

Phase 3: The Crown

There was no way UTSA wasn’t going to eventually enjoy a dominating season. We have always built up to it. Right from the indoctrination of “growth” told to us at orientation, UTSA always had the idea of “growth” in mind. Even the most pessimistic of students had this little thought stored in the back of their brain. It was only a matter of time until it would intertwine.

Finishing only five of eleven seasons with a winning record may not impress the skeptics, in turn souring the culture of the campus and athletics as a whole. The seeds of doubt have been laid, leaving fans with the dream of something more. Before Traylor was hired, UTSA was facing head first at a spiritual low. However, this idea of “growth” was still effervescing whether they knew it or not.

The crown of a tree is the part where the branches and stems grow outward. With the leaves at the ends to photosynthesize and provide the sustenance necessary for continued growth, the current players have developed themselves through the Wilson era and now with Traylor. With knowledge of the past as their foundation, and an eye for growth in mind, the high concentration of players that are seniors/super seniors make way for the road that future players can successfully cross down. As the tree that is the UTSA football program is relatively young compared to other universities, the tenacity has allowed this tree to mature in ways older programs wish they could.

Phase 4: The Fruit

Now we are here, the moment any college football fan has craved. UTSA fans and students have had to live vicariously through the teams of friends and family to see what an amazing college football season looks like. But now, UTSA fans are seeing their friends and families watch in awe as UTSA reaches the top of college football. We have begun to realize that growth potential that so many of us daydreamed of during those long orientation sessions. Although the CFP left UTSA unranked this week, we still have plenty of time to prove them wrong. A program in its eleventh year of play shouldn’t be playing at such a high level. The external noise from outside the program can be loud and deafening at times. But if the team keeps their heads down and let the Traylor Train drive, UTSA can find its way to an even higher level of success.

Epilogue: Sustainability

Although we are here today, it doesn’t mean the good times will always stay. Just like in the rest of life, good will remain dormant until the bad comes to balance it out. Of course no one ever enjoys the lows in life, but without those humbling experiences how will we ever fully appreciate the peaks in life? Regardless of how the team performs in one particular season, support from the fans, alumni, and students is the water and the light that will keep this tree flourishing. Good attendance, financial support, and sheer excitement is the lifeblood of this program. Of course the coaches are the guide, and the players are the drivers. But we, as a collective sum of ardent fans, will hold the program up even when it’s down. Don’t eat the cheese, and Go Runners!

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