UTSA Head Football Coach
By Antonio Gutierrez
Photography by David Teran
What does UTSA head football coach Jeff Traylor have in common with Don Henley of the Eagles and platinum record seller Johnny Mathis? They all have their roots in small-town Gilmer, Texas, population just over 5,000, where Traylor is also a household name.
In fact, Gilmer High School, where Traylor coached the football team for 15 years and led the Buckeyes to three state championships and two state runner-up titles, renamed its stadium, Jeff Traylor Stadium, a few years ago.
“Talk about pressure. They usually do that for people who have died. I hope I don’t mess things up,” he said with a chuckle.
Prior to his selection as head coach at UTSA in December 2019, Traylor, 54, was former associate head coach at UT Austin, Southern Methodist University, and the University of Arkansas.
Last year, UTSA experienced phenomenal success on the gridiron. The Roadrunners won their first 11 games, were nationally ranked (as high as No. 15) for the first time in school history, and captured the program’s first league title by winning the Conference USA Championship with a 49-41 victory over WKU on December 3rd. The team ended the season with its second straight and third overall bowl appearance against San Diego State in the Tropical Smoothie Café Frisco Bowl, according to UTSA’s website.
Traylor, by the way, has always been a die-hard Dallas Cowboys fan but has had to switch allegiances to another NFL team. He’ll explain why later.
What was it like growing up in Gilmer?
My parents were educators, so I was always at the school. My mom, Linda, taught elementary school for 40 years; my dad, Billy, was an administrator. I played sports and grew up on a farm, so there were always chores to do, like feeding and watering animals and bailing hay. It was a simple life.
When you were hired, you were quoted in a university press release, saying, “UTSA is a sleeping giant. I can’t wait to wake it up.” Considering the tremendous success the team had last year, would you say you have achieved that?
We still have some work to do. But that first year of winning all those games was unbelievable. We were predicted to win zero. It will be interesting to see if we’re built to last or just a flash in the pan. That’s what we have to work on with our administration and me, making sure we have the infrastructure in place so that our players are successful for a long time.
Do you feel pressure to do as well as the team performed last year? Everyone will be watching.
I don’t see it that way. I’ve been blessed to be put in this position. There’s something I’ve always taught my kids. Pressure is a privilege. I want to serve the city of San Antonio and serve my players. I’ve never seen myself as head coach of a major university with a big contract. I see it as an opportunity to lead young men and help them become men. We talk about being good people. We’re all about the process and the culture.
Is there anything you have taken from your many years as a high school football coach that you apply today as head football coach for the Roadrunners?
All of it. I’m a Texas high school football coach, and I always will be. Players will do anything to get better, and that’s how you treat them. If you love them and can make them better, there’s nothing they won’t do for you.
What are your goals for the team?
It’s not about wins or losses. We just want to make sure we represent our #210TriangleOfToughness culture at all times. Those pillars are No. 1 being a person of integrity. That’s a pinky promise we make. We go to our ring finger, which is to be a person of passion. The middle finger is about mental and physical toughness. You have to be tough to play the game. The index finger is about selflessness. It’s not about you; it’s about your teammates. And your thumb points to yourself. Always give your best effort. We wad our fingers up, pound our first and trust the process to help win the day. That’s our culture. That’s what the expectations are around here.
What do you like to do during the off-season or when you’re not coaching?
I love to read. I read something spiritual every day, and I read a lot about leadership and coaching. I spend as much time as I can with my family. My son, Jordan, coaches for the New Orleans Saints, so now I’m a Saints fan. My other son, Jacob, works in New York for MSNBC as an associate producer for “PoliticsNation,” and my daughter, Jaci, works for NBC in production for “Law & Order.”