Gilmer Buckeyes Head Coach Jeff Traylor, who has established the winningest football program in the state of Texas in Class 3A over the course of his 13 seasons here, told Gilmer Rotarians at their weekly meeting at the Gilmer Civic Center Tuesday that team loyalty is one of the keys to his program’s success.
And the loyalty works both ways, as his players know “I’ve got their back, no matter what,” he said. “I love ‘em. We all need to know somebody’s got our back, no matter what. And that’s what a coach is supposed to be.”
He added that that mindset didn’t stop when the Buckeyes ended their playing days at Gilmer High School, but continued throughout their lives as alumni of the program.
“You know, when you live in this old world, there are times when you hear so much doom and gloom, you get down. I mean, you just think ‘is there any hope for what I’m doing? Am I doing any good at all?’
“And when you’re around children, you realize that everything’s good. ‘Cause kids are great. Kids don’t know all the things that we know, the terrible things we have to hear about in politics and the fight that goes on.”
Indeed, when football season rolls around in Gilmer, most of us realize that the time for politics (if there ever was one) is over and it is time to concentrate on the Buckeyes.
Since the 1986 Gilmer High School graduate was hired to coach his alma mater in 2000, the “doom and gloom” has been experienced mainly by his teams’ opponents. The Buckeyes have won 148 games and lost only 24, a winning percentage in excess of 86 percent. The Buckeyes have won two state championships, appeared in four state title games and won 11 undefeated district championships. The only year they missed the playoffs was Traylor’s inaugural 2000 season, although the Buckeyes did have a winning record at 6-4.
The 2013 season will mark the 100th year of Gilmer football. The Buckeyes will be wearing a patch on their jerseys to commemorate this milestone.
A centennial celebration will be held before the Homecoming game here against Daingerfield on Friday, Sept. 20. Former players from each year from the 1930s on are being sought for the event, which still needs sponsors, he said, to defray the costs of the commemorative shirts and the barbecue to be served. All former coaches are also being invited. Former Coach Lum Wright Sr. and his son, Lum Wright Jr., a former Buckeye quarterback, are among those who have confirmed they will attend.
The Buckeye mentor, entering his 14th campaign, said 2013 will be “a different kind of season” than 2012. A total of 13 starters are back for this season whereas last year the Buckeyes were basically starting over.
In 2012, he and his staff had to find new players at nearly all positions who could play at the very high level expected of the Buckeyes. And play they did, making it all the way to the 3A Division II State Championship Game in Arlington at Cowboys (now renamed AT&T) Stadium, and compiling an overall record of 14-2.
All of us who watched last season play out know that superb coaching had a great deal to do with that seemingly impossible achievement becoming a reality, but Traylor said he didn’t want to “blow my own horn” regarding that. Rather, he said that his players just have a mentality that they can never be defeated. And so they seldom are.
“We were not a very good football team. We just kept winning ball games. My kids just find a way to win. They really do. They think they are unbeatable. They have a mindset that is just phenomenal.”
Four teams will go to the playoffs out of each 3A district this season for the first time ever. Next year another change will occur as all classifications move up one letter in name only, so, for example, 3A will be renamed 4A. And the new 4A will be split into two divisions BEFORE the season begins, as is already done in the lower classifications. Although no one knows for sure, Gilmer will likely be one of the largest schools in 4A Division II in 2014.
Traylor commented, “I don’t want to dare say that I know we’re going to make the playoffs, but I’m not as stressed about making the playoffs. Surely we can get in the top four out of seven teams. I would hope we could.
“So I am kinda coaching more with a big picture in mind whereas last year I was literally coaching each week, putting my team in jeopardy for an injury because we were practicing so hard at such a pace because I didn’t know if we were gonna win a ball game. This year we’re actually playing less football than we did last year and we’re lifting (weights) a lot more and running a lot more, preparing for a deeper run. That might bite me in the tail, but we’ve played a lot of football with these kids. They played 16 games last year.”
He quipped, “Now I close my eyes in practice because I’m afraid somebody’s gonna get hurt. I don’t want to practice at all. I just want to get to the game.”
Of course, he added, that was not realistic as you have to practice to be prepared for the game.
“You’ve gotta practice or you won’t be ready.”
Coach Traylor said he sensed more excitement in the community about this year’s team than for any team since the 2009 one which won the 3A Division I State Championship.
“Everywhere I go, there’s a tremendous buzz.”
Part of that, he said, probably has to do with the renovation of the home side of Buckeye Stadium. He said he has heard nothing but positive comments about that project also and thanked Gilmer Supt. Rick Albritton for getting it done.
He estimated that 95 percent of the people he has dealt with buying tickets recently have stopped to tell him how proud they are of the stadium. He also said he knew there were always going to be a few detractors and that he and his program take all criticisms seriously.
“That’s just life and we need those people in our lives, too.”
This year’s team has two seniors who have committed to play for Division I schools, Josh Walker (Texas A&M) and DeVondrick Dixon (Texas State). Traylor said he expects two or three other seniors will also commit before the recruiting process is over.
Three former Buckeyes are now with NFL teams: Curtis Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers, David Snow of the Buffalo Bills (David’s father, Todd Snow, was on hand for Traylor’s talk Tuesday) and G.J. Kinne of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Dozens of Buckeyes are currently playing college football, he said. Rather than name them all, he focused on the Division I players, including Braylon Webb of Missouri, Darrion Pollard and Luke Turner of Rice, Gus Johnson of Stephen F. Austin and Jacob Jenkins of Oklahoma State.
Coach Traylor said his four years as Big Sandy’s basketball coach in the early 1990s had a lot to do with what anyone who has watched the Buckeyes on offense would identify as a swashbuckling, “riverboat gambler” style of play-calling. He said that basketball era of his career was also why he wasn’t bothered by those who second-guessed his calls.
“I’m not afraid to call a play. I’m going to coach to win the game.”
Coach Traylor talked about the greatest influence in his career in terms of coaching football and also in terms of being a man, Gilmer Offensive Coordinator Matt Turner, whom he first met when both were on Coach Danny Long’s staff at Jacksonville High School in the 1990s. Turner joined the Gilmer staff in 2003.
“I don’t know why he wants to work for me. It’s a blessing. He is truly one of the greatest human beings I’ve ever met in my life.”
He also honored Coach Long, “who believed in me when I was a 24-year-old, snot-nosed kid.”
Traylor concluded, “True story: Matt Turner. When I got hired at Jacksonville, Matt was the offensive coordinator. Wayne Coleman, who works for me, and Matt were my coordinators. That’s who I worked for. And they were brilliant men. Great men, too. I was 24 and they were 34. And Matt sat me down after one week. He said, ‘Jeff, you’re the greatest motivator of black children, white children, Mexican-American children, poor children, rich children. I’ve never seen a young man who can motivate kids like you can. But you don’t know a dang thing about football and you think you know everything.’ He said, ‘If you’ll just shut up for one year and watch and listen, I’ll make you one of the greatest head coaches Texas has ever had.’ And, you know, no one had ever spoken that much truth to me in my life. He spoke the truth into me. Now I was offended, to be quite honest with you ... but I listened to Matt and there’s not a greater teacher in the game of football. Matt Turner’s the greatest teacher of ANYTHING I’ve ever been around. It’s not that Matt has some kind of unique teaching skill. It’s strictly will and love. He loves people. He wills his knowledge into you. He’s a joy. You need to come watch him coach one time. Just come to practice one time and watch that 55-year-old man run circles around everyone in my field house.”
The Buckeyes’ motto for the 2013 season is “Deuce:Deuce.” It is a reference to Revelation 2:2 in the Bible, which reads as follows in the King James Version: “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars.”
Another way of expressing this in modern-day lingo might be to say that the Buckeyes are dedicated to “keeping it real.”
The Buckeyes always have as their goal before each season to win a state championship and 2013 is no exception.
“We’ll be bustin’ our tail,” vowed their coach. “And I’d love to win a state championship our 100th season in the new stadium.”
Rotarian Bill Patterson was in charge of the program and introduced Coach Traylor. After admitting he was intimidated by the longtime Gilmer businessman and real estate developer growing up (even the neighborhood in which he lived was called the “Patterson Addition”), Coach Traylor called him as “one of my biggest fans” and “one of my dearest friends” who “always has a kind word for me.”
Patterson also mentioned during his introduction that Coach Traylor’s father, Billy Traylor, another man who has been a tremendous positive influence on a lot of people, had just undergone back surgery and needed to be in our prayers.
The Buckeyes have one more scrimmage at New Boston on Thursday, Aug. 22, before kicking off the season at the like-new Buckeye Stadium on Thursday, Aug. 29, against the Atlanta Rabbits.
Gilmer Buckeyes Head Coach Jeff Traylor discusses the upcoming 100th season of Buckeye Football at the GilmerRotary Club's weekly noon meeting at the Gilmer Civic Center.
In the first clip, Coach Traylor is promoting a celebration and barbecue to be held before the Homecoming game on Friday, Sept. 20, commemorating 100 years of Gilmer football.
In the second clip, he discusses the meaning of the team's 2013 motto ("Deuce:Deuce") as well as previews the upcoming season and also goes over where some former Buckeyes are now playing at the next levels, including college and pro.