UTSA unveils single-digit jerseys, banking on new group of leaders

Speaking to the media after UTSA’s fall camp opening practice, cornerback Corey Mayfield laid out his plan to become a leader.

Being vocal never seemed natural to him, but as he worked towards the start of his fifth year in a Roadrunners uniform, he said he wanted his younger teammates to look up to him as an example.

About three weeks later, when his phone rang Saturday with a message from coach Jeff Traylor, Mayfield let out a howl of excitement. For the first time in his career, his teammates and coaches voted him into one of the single-digit Roadrunners jerseys – an accolade highlighting players who combine leadership and an embodiment of program culture with performance. optimum in the field.

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“It’s a blessing, man, to finally have it,” Mayfield said. “Getting votes from my teammates, from my coaches. I’m just glad they chose me. I will represent it correctly.

UTSA this week announced a group of 20 players who have earned enough votes to crack the single-digit group, including four offensive linemen who must remain in jersey numbers between 50 and 79.

0 – Frank Harris, Rashad Wisdom

1 – De’Corian Clark, Trevor Harmanson

2 – Josh Cephus, Corey Mayfield Jr.

3-Brandon Matterson

4 – Clifford Chattman, Zakhari Franklin

5 – Brenden Brady, Lucas Dean

6 – Kelechi Nwachuku

7-Dadrian Taylor

8 – Jamal Ligon

9 – Brandon Brown, Oscar Cardenas

*55 – Ahofitu Maka

*58 – Terrell Haynes

*61 – Kevin Davis

*77 – Makai Deer

* Voted for single digit jersey but cannot change number due to position

The honor was something Mayfield said he’s been pushing since Traylor unveiled the system ahead of its inaugural season two years ago, seeking to bring back the pillars of its “210 Triangle of Toughness” culture.

With 10 of this year’s selections reprising their roles from last season, Traylor said the Roadrunners most celebrate players who had to bide their time to step into that position, like Mayfield.

“He got a ton of votes, and he was just waiting his turn,” Traylor said. “He kept hooking up. It’s amazing how many NFL scouts are asking about Corey now. They recognize how hard he hits and how aggressive he plays, so that’s exciting for Corey.

Picks are counted by a vote from each Roadrunners player and coach, with player votes weighted by the number of fall camps they’ve attended with the program, Traylor said.

Although 20 slots are theoretically available — numbers 0 through 9 in offense and defense — Traylor said the threshold for inclusion is established more naturally, falling wherever he notices a drastic drop in total votes.

The numbers 2, 1 and 0 – San Antonio’s primary area code – are considered the highest honor, and this year quarterback Frank Harris (0), safety Rashad Wisdom (0), linebacker Trevor Harmanson (1) and wides De’Corian Clark (1) and Joshua Cephus (2) were among the most popular selections in the vote, Traylor said.

Wide receiver Zakhari Franklin (4), running back Brenden Brady (5) and tight end Oscar Cardenas (9) were also selected by all but one or two of the more than 90 players who voted.

Linebackers Dadrian Taylor (7) and Jamal Ligon (8) and offensive linemen Ahofitu Maka (55) and Makai Hart (77) were also recipients of the honor, along with Harris, Wisdom, Harmanson, Cephus, Franklin and Brady.

“All the pillars of culture that the coach always talks about, we have to do those things and live up to it, and we have to be a playmaker on the pitch,” Harris said. “Single digit people mean a lot to us. It means a lot to the program, and we’re lucky to be here.

With 11 of last year’s single-digit players leaving UTSA, Traylor said he was interested to see what new faces would make the roster, especially on defense.

Some of the new picks were veterans of the program, including fifth-year players like defensive tackle Brandon Matterson (3), safety Kelechi Nwachuku (6) and offensive lineman Terrell Haynes (58), plus a stalwart of sixth year in offensive lineman Kevin. Davis (61).

Others had less experience at UTSA, including a pair of second-year Roadrunners at Tulane moving Brandon Brown (9) to defensive tackle and Texas A&M moving Clifford Chattman (4) to safety.

“Growing up I was always a quiet guy, I kept a lot of stuff to myself,” Chattman said. “Being safe, I have to get everyone to attack and line up everyone. So, I just take it one day at a time, and I’m able to talk and talk more, and get out of my comfort zone.

Harris pointed to the often-quiet Cardenas as an attacking player who grew as a leader.

Cardenas, a Brandeis product, said he was motivated to fill the void left by tight end Leroy Watson – a “role model” for Cardenas who wore number 1 with the Roadrunners last year.

“I’m a very internal guy. I’m not like a Rashad or a DaeDae (Taylor),” Cardenas said. “I’m more of a Maka or Jamal type leader. I’ll put them aside and fix them on something.

Harris and Wisdom, the Conference USA Preseason Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, were voted single-digit jerseys for a third consecutive season, as were Brady and Taylor.

Harris pointed out that holding his teammates accountable is a key part of leadership, building on the trust and relationships he’s developed over the years from small gestures like dancing through morning stretch lines and kicking in hand with as many teammates as possible.

Wisdom said the leadership role is something single-digit players “don’t take lightly,” and his focus this year has been to live up to the words he preaches to the rest of the Roadrunners.

“To be in that number for three years, you have to be consistent,” Wisdom said. “It’s with leadership, playing on the pitch and off the pitch too. In the classroom. Those are the most important things that I try to stick to and try to live up to the standard that we have here with the triangle. I’m just happy to be back to zero, and it’s all thanks to the guys who upvoted me.

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Twitter: @GregLuca

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