Lessons from Texas stint helped Traylor spur success at UTSA

With a home on Lake Gilmer and three seven-acre backyard ponds that “had all the fish you could ever catch,” Jeff Traylor felt content in his life as a high school football coach.

But after 15 years and three state titles at Gilmer, a call from Texas coach Charlie Strong presented an opportunity too good to pass up. Traylor joined the Longhorns in 2015 as special teams coordinator and tight ends coach, and transitioned to assistant head coach the following season.

The move set Traylor on a path that meandered through SMU for one season and Arkansas for two years before landing at UTSA, using lessons learned from his previous stints to make the Roadrunners a winner.

Q: What were the main things you discovered during your time in Texas as a college coach?

A: The biggest thing was that I learned a lot from Charlie about how to recruit and how to be true to yourself – to be what I am. Not to be something I’m not. Charlie does it a certain way and I rooted for Charlie because he’s very down to earth and just a good person. We didn’t do any crazy stuff, we just recruited, and it’s more relational. I learned a lot from Charlie there. Charlie was old fashioned and he would build it up through the high school kid. He thought he had five years left, so he would clean out the dressing room, bring in freshmen and develop them. But he only got three years, and then Chad (Morris) only got two in Arkansas, so I learned quickly that you really need to get the media, the fandom, and the boosters on your side fast. It will be a mixed roster. I come with transfers, JUCO and high school. And we’ve remained true to our mission since we’ve been here. But if I had done all those things and had great cultural pillars and everyone was nice and well behaved and all the things that we had but we only won four games and then maybe five games then I would feel that it would really be different at the moment. I only have one feeling So recruiting and managing a roster are the two things I think I learned the most from Charlie.

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Q: How did your experience of the recruiting process as a high school coach prepare you to approach the task from the other side?

A: I knew what I didn’t want to do just because so many people had come through my office and some of them looked like used car salesmen and it disgusted me. I had voicemails on my phone that I kept for years just to play, just to remind myself of how I didn’t want to be. There were also many people who came through my office that I really appreciated the way they went about their business and I respect what they did and I took a lot away from it. If you’re in a really good school, and I was there for 15 years, you get to know these trainers pretty well. They all come through your door. So you meet a lot of college coaches and you get some really good relationships with all these guys. There are some people that we just didn’t philosophically align with, and we didn’t want to be like that. And there are some guys that I really philosophically align with and that’s what I wanted to be like. I’m still close to those guys to this day, the guys I learned a lot from.

Q: Did anything about the recruitment surprise you compared to your perception of the process in high school?

A: I would say most. I was blown away by how it really went and how easy it is to just give a really good review and work tirelessly to recruit a kid which is a relationship with me. You can speak of a million recruits. Brandon Jones from Nacogdoches, his mother Sarah and all his brothers whose names all start with B. Brennan, Braxton, Bryson, Brayden and his father Bert died. And I remember you couldn’t call them by their names on Twitter, but I called them the Killer Bs, and these kids all knew I was talking to them all the time, but it was legal because I didn’t see them at their name called name. Nobody else knew they were Killer Bs. I’m still close with all these kids. Brandon is playing with the Dolphins right now. Just these relationships, it’s just a recruit with a stupid story I didn’t know. As a high school coach, you didn’t realize how deep those relationships ran. Especially if you are a positional trainer. If you are the head coach, there are so many of them. But when you’re a positional coach and an area coach, you can really engage with your kids. This blew me away the depth you go to. But also the opportunity to just push, just work, and how close I became to this family and many families like it.

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Q: What about college level program management? How was it different from working at Gilmer?

A: You got a lot more help in college. Much more help. You have academic staff here, you have strength staff here, you have facilities, you have nutrition. In high school, you do it all by yourself. It’s all you. You do everything. From washing the clothes to lining the field to mowing the field. When Gilmer left, we took care of all those things. But I was amazed at how much I had to learn about compliance and such topics. I didn’t understand how microscopic they are on your own campus. I had a lot to learn. I’m really glad I was an assistant for five years before becoming a head coach.

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