One of the neat things about this job is writing about people who believe in the power of their dreams and inspire others with their commitment to make those dreams a reality.
If you think that comes across as maudlin, even cheesy, you're not familiar with Ephraim Banda and Caesar Martinez, now on Mack Brown's coaching staff at Texas.
That's right, Texas.
How do you tell the compelling story of two guys who went from the University of the Incarnate Word, which has played football for only four seasons, to one of the country's elite college programs within a year of each other?
Simple. You get out of the way and just let it flow. As we say in the business, this is a story that writes itself.
Banda, a 2000 Taft High School graduate who worked his way through college as a bartender, and Martinez will be on the sidelines when UT plays Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl at 5:45 p.m. Saturday at the Alamodome.
Banda, who joined Brown's staff this summer, is a graduate assistant who helps Duane Akina coach the defensive backs and Martinez is in his second season as an assistant strength and conditioning coach.
"Coach Caesar has a great reputation and he had mentioned my name up there, and I'd met the UT coaches at conventions," Banda, 31, said this week. "When Coach Akina called me, it was one of the best days of my life. At first, I was shocked."
Banda: 'We're expecting a big, burnt orange crowd'
Banda said he initially thought someone was playing a prank on him.
"I'm not going to lie to you," Banda said, chuckling. "I did."
But it was no joke.
"It's been an experience, a dream come true," Banda said. "It's been great working with Coach Akina and all the other coaches. I'm just thankful for the opportunity. In my opinion, UT is the best place to be in the world. Being around a great staff and being able to work with such good people has been the most rewarding experience I've ever had up to this point in my life."
That UT, which finished the regular season 8-4, will play in the Alamo Bowl has made Banda's first season with the Longhorns even more memorable.
"There's definitely some familiarity with it," Banda said. "It's nice to come back to San Antonio. I know the city real well. Great people, always great supporters of the University of Texas. We're expecting a big, burnt orange crowd out there."
Martinez, 29, was strength and conditioning coach at UIW for almost three years before going to UT in the spring of 2011. He serves as an assistant to Longhorns strength and conditioning coach Bennie Wylie, his former boss at Texas Tech.
A Ballinger native, Martinez worked as a student assistant under Wylie at Tech for nearly three years before earning his degree in 2008. He started college at Angelo State after graduating from Ballinger High School in 2001, and transferred to Tech in the fall of 2002.
Martinez recommended Banda for UT job
Martinez made the Red Raiders' roster as a walk-on running back in 2004, staying on the team for two seasons before becoming a student assistant under Wylie.
Wylie, who knew then-UIW defensive coordinator Todd Ivicic, had a big hand in Martinez landing a job with the Cardinals.
Martinez did the same for Banda, a student assistant at UIW for one season before he earned his degree last year.
"Ephraim started out at Incarnate Word when I first got the job there, so I trained him," Martinez said. "It was easy to make a recommendation for him because Ephraim is one of those guys who works his butt off all the time. He works his heart out."
"It just happened that we had a job open for a graduate assistant. I made the recommendation and Coach Akina had enough faith and trust in me. It's worked out. Ephraim has been a blessing. He's a guy I can vouch for at any given position, anywhere in the country. He's a guy I would trust with my family."
Banda was 25 when he enrolled at UIW in the fall of 2007 and joined the Cards' fledgling football program as a walk-on.
Two years later, he was captain of the special teams when UIW beat Monterrey Tech 42-39 in the Cards' first game in history. That was quite a feat for someone who hadn't played in a game since 1999, and had attended only parts of semesters in college after graduating from Taft.
Martinez's story a compelling one, too
Unfortunately, Banda's career was ended by a knee injury early in the 2010 season. A sports management major, Banda was determined to stay close to the game.
Not surprisingly, he embraced the transition to coaching with the same passion that defined him as a player.
Banda regularly worked 35-40 hours a week as a bartender at a downtown hotel while going to school at UIW. Between football, work and classes, Banda was fortunate to get six hours of sleep a night.
Still, he pressed on and never complained.
"He never missed a workout," Martinez said. "He was quite a story."
So is Martinez.
"It feels good to come back to San Antonio and see some familiar faces," he said. "It's like another home. It feels good to be in any bowl game. I love working at Texas. I wouldn't trade it for the world.
"Texas is Texas. It speaks for itself. It's been nothing but a blessing to be here. I've had an opportunity to meet some great people."
Hats off to two people who believed in the power of their dreams and committed themselves to realize them.