AUGUST 30, 2022 — Winning any championship is a tall order to accomplish, but winning back-to-back championships is essentially a Herculean feat in the world of sports. No team has won two Super Bowls in a row in nearly two decades. The 1998-2000 New York Yankees were the last team to win back-to-back World Series titles. Even the beloved San Antonio Spurs, who have won five NBA world championships since 1999, have never lifted the trophy in consecutive years.
This is the challenge and opportunity in front of the UTSA football coach Jeff Traylor. At the height of a magical 12-win season in 2021, the Roadrunners won the Conference USA championship before a thunderous Alamodome crowd. Now, they have their sights set on doing it all over again.
While five starters from last year’s UTSA team are now vying for spots on the NFL teams’ roster, the good news is that seven players on the 2022 UTSA roster are on the preseason watch lists for NFL national awards. college football. The media that covers conference football seems to think the Roadrunners will win a second straight conference championship.
With the new season starting on Saturday, Traylor spoke with UTSA today about the challenges ahead and the blessing of coaching brilliant leaders on both sides of the ball.
The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Before the conference championship game last season, San Antonio businesses put up orange lights when they would normally be putting up their holiday displays. How did it feel to see San Antonio really embrace UTSA Football in such a meaningful way?
That is what we have dreamed of since I accepted the job. You can go back and watch my original press conference in December 2019. I said we wanted to be the San Antonio football team. It is the 7th largest city in the country, there is no professional soccer team, and we are the only FBS college soccer team in the city. We really wanted to capture the attention of the city and I am very happy for my children that they were able to see the fulfillment of that.
We just hope the momentum continues and we can rack up another great year. We have had two great years in a row, we are going for the third.
Think of guys like Barry Alvarez at Wisconsin, Bill Snyder at Kansas State, and Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech, they all took those programs to new heights and left an indelible legacy at those colleges. It really seemed like that was what you wanted, to be the coach that really puts UTSA on the map. How much did that factor into your decision last fall to take the 10-year contract extension and reaffirm that commitment to UTSA?
Dr. Campos and President Eighmy anticipated that other universities would look hard at me trying to hire me, but I expressed my interest in wanting to be here long-term and they reciprocated by offering me a 10-year contract. Just know that any time you try to grow up as fast as us, and be as “young” as us, there are going to be some bumps in the road. And I wanted that security to know that when some of those bumps came up, we would be able to persevere through them with my coaching staff and my strength team. There are many people who count on me to keep a job.
Advancing to the American Athletic Conference is going to be a big bite. Once we figure that out, we hope there’s another big bite to come. We want to be the ones to help run this show through all of that, and make the show the best it can be.
What are the biggest challenges to repeat as Conference USA champions and how are you mentally preparing the team for those challenges?
First, there is the psychological aspect. Now we are the hunted. Now people have expectations for us, and that’s different. We have never had those expectations before. We were chosen to finish last my freshman year at UTSA. We were elected to the top last year, but not first. And now we are chosen to win the conference by some polls and some voters this year. That’s going to be a different challenge psychologically.
Second, we lost a lot of great players from last year’s team. Clarence Hicks is with the Cincinnati Bengals right now. Charles Wiley is with the Baltimore Ravens. Tariq Woolen was drafted by the Seahawks. We lost our starting left tackle Spencer Burford to the 49ers and Sincere McCormick is with the Raiders. Antonio Parks is now a coach for us. We lost Jaylon Haynes and Lorenzo Dantzler from the defensive line. We lost our tight end Leroy Watson. We had a very good football team and we have lost many of those players.
Our motto this year is “The bull doesn’t care”. Tuff Hedeman was a three time world champion bullfighter and a bull named “Bodacious” completely ruined him. Tuff said: “The bull doesn’t care that I rode him last week.” It is the same with us. Nobody cares that we won the conference championship last year. We have to find a way to be the best team we can be this year, and we have to figure out what that looks like.