SAN ANTONIO – This offseason has been filled with challenges for UTSA football.
In December, the Roadrunners welcomed Jeff Traylor as the third head coach in program history. Just as players were adapting to Traylor’s style, the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States in mid-March and wiped out the spring practice schedule, leaving teams across the country in limbo. Since then, the Roadrunners have adapted to quarantine regulations and used Zoom meetings to stay connected with their teammates and the new coaching staff.
But in the wake of a senseless, horrific tragedy -- the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25th -- the UTSA football team was forced to confront a very different enemy: racism. After a few days of measured silence, Traylor spoke out on social media and sided with the swelling momentum of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. His players responded in kind, and together, they chose to discuss their own personal views on, and experiences with, racial injustice in America via a Zoom call. Afterwards, Traylor praised the meeting, promising that the Roadrunners will “make the City of San Antonio proud as we keep the George Floyd movement relevant with our platform.”
In light of that discussion, KSAT 12 reached out to UTSA to see if the team would like to share their opinions on recent events and how they plan to use their status as student-athletes to help society march closer towards reform. Lorenzo Dantzler, Solomon Wise, Sheldon Jones, Myles Benning and Hunter Duplessis all joined Coach Traylor for an exclusive interview, which proceeded as follows:
Q: WHY WAS IT IMPORTANT TO HOLD A TEAM-WIDE DISCUSSION OVER THE DEATH OF GEORGE FLOYD?
COACH TRAYLOR: “I saw the long version of the George Floyd incident, the 3.5 minute video. When I heard him say he couldn’t breath, and he’s crying out for his mom… I did some research and saw that he played at a Texas high school and a Texas college. I started thinking about how many of my players, in my 30-year coaching career, that I had coached. That could be one of my players. It could be anybody’s son. That bothered me tremendously. I constructed a tweet to go out, and I’m ashamed to say that my first thought was, ‘How much backlash am I going to get for taking a public stance on this?’ Then my second thought was how many of my former players are going to be looking at this and want me to say something. I’m choosing my players, I’m going to press send. I didn’t push it out immediately. I spoke to five of my closest friends, and at the time, it wasn’t that huge of a deal. It had just happened. I told my players that’s the very thing we can’t do anymore. I can’t be that guy. I made my mind up that I wasn’t going to be that guy anymore. I was going to have the courage to speak up, push send or whatever that might be. That was going on in my mind and my heart, so I wanted to reach out to my players and set up a Zoom meeting.
Our players really came at it from every angle that you can imagine. I wanted it to be a 15 minute meeting, and then we were going to split up and go into 10 position meetings. I opened the forum up, and you can ask these guys, but I’m going to guess it went 2.5 hours. Special Teams went last. I didn’t think any Special Teams guys were going to be left. Hunter was still hanging in there and wanted to make sure he got his ‘two cents’ in at the end. It was an amazing meeting that I think will forever keep our team bonded when they’re 60 years old and I’m 85 in an ‘Old Folks’ home. When they come to see me, we’ll be talking about that day.”
SHELDON JONES: “We thought it was necessary, but it was a shock that it happened. It truly showed who Coach Traylor really is, and as we move forward through June and July, we’re still really getting to know each other. One thing we always talk about is integrity. That’s telling the truth over a period of time, and he hasn’t lied to us yet. By actually stepping up and doing that, taking that risk on Twitter, which is a very large platform... putting himself out there really meant a lot."