Chris Johnson

The day of the first game seemed far away; then it got closer and closer. Now there are just days separating the Roadrunners from their first game, and the clock in the football office continues to click down toward the first game in the history of the Roadrunner program.

“It has been a fun process; it has been a scary process as I look and it gets closer to the third,” Head Football Coach Larry Coker said. “It has been a great process.”

The process began with UTSA students taking a chance on the future by twice voting on a raise in tuition to fund a football program.

“That’s one of the reasons I came here, if the students didn’t want it then there is no reason for me to be here, but they wanted the program,” Coker said. “Now we have to give them a good program.”

As the days got closer, Coker built a staff of coaches with varying experience and a team of players big and small that would take the field against Northeastern State in the first game.

“I feel great about the players but how good we do I don’t know that; we will find out: That’s why we need to play,” Coker said. “But we have good coaches, I’d take these coaches anywhere.”

The coaches were hired and the players recruited knowing that the first game would be in the Alamodome. For a startup, the Alamodome represents a chance for the program to get started without having to worry about the trials of building the playing facilities.

“I haven’t been in any nicer than this. As far as stadiums are concerned I think this is a great football venue; there isn’t a bad seat in here,” Coker said. “What we have to do is make this a home field advantage, we have to do good things so the fans get behind us, if we do that, it is going to be a great place to play.”

Having the Alamodome means one less thing for Coker to worry about leading up to the first game. Instead of having to worry about a venue to play, the Roadrunners are working on getting a practice facility built on campus.

“Facilities have been the biggest challenge. I thought recruiting would be but the facilities have been the biggest,” Coker said. “That’s something we are still working on, we own the land, now we just need to build the facilities.”

The Roadrunners new uniforms are among the things that will be unveiled at the Alamodome on Sept. 3. The uniforms are blue with white numbers trimmed in orange. Above the numbers, the name ‘UTSA’ is printed. The pants are white and the helmets are completely blue with blue facemasks and orange flecks on the helmet. On the helmets is the UTSA bird logo with UTSA written underneath.

“I like them, I don’t know how shoulder pads are going to fit under those,” Coker said. “I guarantee you there will be no holding because you can’t grab hold of those. But they are really sharp. I like them a lot.”

Junior linebacker Brandon Reeves shared Coker’s sentiments about the new uniforms.

“I like them, they are nice and tight,” Reeves said. “Better than anything I’ve worn.”

Reeves will line up in the Roadrunners defensive 4-2-5 formation. The 4-2-5 utilizes four defensive linemen, two linebackers and five defensive backs. It won’t be the only formation the Roadrunners run on defense though.

“We will get in our nickel package, some,” defensive coordinator Neal Neathery said. “But the 4-2-5 allows us to be aggressive against the run and get into situations where we can pressure the passer.”

The Roadrunners offense will utilize multiple looks to confuse defenses.

“We will run multiple formations and multiple personnel packages,” offensive coordinator Travis Bush said.

Leading the offense will either be redshirt sophomore Eric Soza or redshirt freshman John Simmons. The latest depth chart, as of August 28, had Soza as the starter, though both are prepared.

“It is special, Eric and I are roommates, I couldn’t ask for anyone better to push me,” Simmons said. “We are just excited, as a team, to get this started; we are ready to play some games.”

Soza, who transferred to UTSA from Texas State, echoed his teammate’s sentiments about the first game.

“It’s exciting, we are going out there and having fun,” Soza said. “Every day you go in that coach’s office and see that clock counting down.”

The ticking clock brings the excitement of the first game closer every day, something Coker has to keep in check.

“The main thing we are trying to do is to not get too wrapped up in the awe of the moment,” Coker said. “It is going to be a good first game.”

The opponent in that first game, Northeastern State (OK), will enter a venue the size of which it has never played, but then again so will the Roadrunners.

“Someone said the team we are playing has never played in front of a crowd like that and our guys have never played in front of any crowd,” Coker said. “So I don’t know how big an advantage that will be. We want to keep the game in between the white lines [of the field].”

The Alamodome represents quite a difference from the facility at Dub Farris Stadium where the Roadrunners spent the hot days of August practicing and where they will continue to practice all season.

“I told our equipment manager we might need to get jackets because it was so cool in here,” Coker said when asked about the change to the Alamodome. “That was a lift for us; this has been huge for us to be able to do this.”

The players got a chance to see the Alamodome in its empty greatness during the Roadrunners media day on Aug. 19. If anything it brought the reality of Sept. 3 closer to the players.

“I think it sunk in today when we first got out here, just looking in the stands and seeing that all these seats will be full,” junior tight end TJ Nielsen said. “It is starting to get a little more nerve-wracking, a little more exciting.”

Nielsen contains his excitement by taking on a leadership role, being an example for his teammates to follow.

“Being one of the oldest on the team I try to be the leader as much as I can. We have a lot of young talent on this team,” Nielsen said. “So I like to make sure everyone keeps a level head. Everyone knows we have work to do coming up.”

How the Roadrunners mesh as a team throughout the season will determine the kind of record they have when the dust settles in November.

“In order to have a great team you have to be a family, you have to strive forward,” junior defensive end Marlon Smith said. “It gives me hope for the season that we will go through it as a team, not individuals.”

The game on Sept. 3 will be played and the history of UTSA football will begin its on-field chapter.

“The more we come around, the more we feel more comfortable about playing here and the more anxious we get,” Smith said. “We are ready; we know we have a first game on Sept. 3.”

The excitement of the first game reveals the possibilities for the program. No matter where the team stands in the years to come, the fans must not be too quick to hop off the team bandwagon, something Coker understands comes with the play on the field.

“I think patience is very important, this is a process, we are going to compete to win every game,” Coker said. “Our fans need to realize is this is process, but if they stay with us they can look back on it and have something to be proud of.”

Years of preparation are in the past, it is now time for the team to kick it off and begin the journey of UTSA football.

The Roadrunners will host the Northeastern State Riverhawks at 1 p.m. Saturday.  

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