By Elwyn Henderson
The Mirror had an opportunity to visit with former Gilmer Buckeye and current UTSA Head Coach Jeff Traylor Monday, July 24th at Live! by Loew’s in Arlington at the 2023 AAC Media Days.
We began our interview by asking Coach Traylor his thoughts on moving over to the deeply-talented AAC Conference this year from C-USA.
“Yeah, we start with Houston in 40 days, so that’s where we always start. Then we get GJ Kinne and Texas State, then Army and Tennessee and then the open week. Then the AAC. We have a lot of respect for Willie Fritz down at Tulane, the reigning Conference Champion. We’ve only been playing football for 12 seasons, going on 13. East Carolina, Temple, South Florida, SMU; those guys have been playing football for a long time. We understand we’ve got our work cut out for us but our kids are excited about it.”
We asked how good it felt that the Roadrunners have been picked to finish second in the AAC behind Tulane this season, and he responded, “We just don’t look at it much. I’d rather be picked there with 16 preseason All-Conference when we got there when we were picked dead last and we had nobody on the All-Conference team, but we don’t really talk about it very much actually, Elwyn. We’ve got a bunch of good football players and that always makes you a good football coach.”
We then asked the coach if he ever dreamed that he would end up coaching against a former Buckeye quarterback that he had coached in a college football game.
“No, I didn’t for sure, but I’m extremely proud of GJ. It doesn’t surprise me the success he’s had. He will continue to do well. I know that’s right down the street and a rival game and all that kind of stuff. I’ll be rooting for him 364 days out of the year. He was in Jordan’s wedding in April. He’s a really neat young man. No, I never would have dreamed that.”
We pointed out that the game against Kinne and Texas State would be a big game, and Coach Traylor agreed, saying, “Yeah, there’s no doubt; our first home game and GJ’s really hyped that thing up. It will be a big game for them and it’s a trophy game and we want to keep that trophy sitting in San Antonio.”
Additionally, we asked his thoughts on the season overall, pointing out that the ‘Runners were very blessed in getting quarterback Frank Harris and a number of other players back for one more season.
“Yeah, Frank and we’ve got JT back, we’ve got Josh Stevens back, we’ve got Makai Hart back, we’ve got Kevorian Barnes back, Oscar Cardenas, Trey Moore, Rashad Wisdom, Jamal Ligon. We’ve got a lot of guys that have played a lot of ball for us. Our D-line is really deep and they’re all back, so we’re excited about or team. Lucas Dean, our punter is back. Those are good football players.”
We concluded our visit by asking Coach Traylor his thoughts about the Gilmer Buckeyes and their upcoming season.
“I’m thrilled for Alan Metzel and that staff and so many of my former players and so many of my former coaches. I’m thrilled for them. I keep up with them all the time. They’ve kept that thing going and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
We also had a chance to visit with quarterback Frank Harris and we began our visit by asking him what factored into his decision to return to UTSA for the 2023 season.
“I think we were more excited to get him (Coach Traylor) back, honestly. We know he could have left and went anywhere. When I first committed to UTSA my dad told me I wasn’t able to leave and de-commit, so when I decided to pick a school I had to stay there. My first couple of seasons didn’t go as expected with all the injuries, but they were always there for me during that time. My dad always told me what to do and I’m just paying him back. I love playing with Coach Traylor, I love playing with my teammates and I love playing in front of the city of San Antonio where I’m from. Their support is like no other. That was a no-brainer for me to come back.”
We concluded by asking Frank what Jeff Traylor has meant to him both as a coach and a mentor, and he said, “He’s just a great guy. He’s a great coach of course, but he’s just a great person. We can hang out with him and talk about real life situations. He’ll give you advice on stuff like that. Great mentor; he’s a great guy all around. It’s easy to play for a guy like that, and he’s going to keep doing great things for us, for sure. He’s a player’s coach. He listens to what we say. He respects us and we respect him. He doesn’t really harp on the little things. As long as you’re being a grown man and carry yourself a certain way, he’s going to let you be, and it’s easy to play for somebody like that. It’s easy to respect somebody like that and that’s why I think we play so hard for him. The whole team and the whole city of San Antonio loves him.”
It should be another very successful season for the Roadrunners, and as always, Gilmer Buckeye fans will be watching and rooting for UTSA all season. Birds Up!