Friday, Sep 14 at 7:25 PM
First things first: UTSA senior defensive tackle Franky Anaya is a Californian, through and through.
He still hasn't adapted to the oppressive heat in San Antonio since transferring from Pierce Junior College in California last year, but he tolerates it because he's found a home playing for the Roadrunners.
"It is what it is," said Anaya, who grew up Thousand Oaks, Calif., where the Cowboys had their training camp for years.
But don't look for Anaya, who plans to be a firefighter, to settle in San Antonio after he graduates with a degree in American studies next May.
"California is paradise and home to me," Anaya said. "But I consider this football team my second family. That's just the way it is."
Every team has its share of characters who strike a balance between being intense and keeping things light with just the right touch of humor in the heat of competition.
Anaya is such a player for the Roadrunners.
"We always make fun of Franky because he's always complaining about something, upset about something," safety Steven Kurfehs said. "He'll say, 'I hate this heat. I hate this heat. I want to be back in California.' You never see him smile."
UTSA plays Georgia State at 5 p.m. Saturday in Atlanta
Although Anaya may complain, he's earned the respect of his teammates and coaches with his grit and tenacity.
"He plays 100 miles an hour every play," Kurfehs said. "You've got to admire that. He may complain about certain things, but it doesn't matter."
Anaya will be in the lineup when UTSA (2-0) plays Georgia State (0-2) at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Sean Ianno kicked a 32-yard field goal in overtime last year to lift the Roadrunners to a 17-14 victory against the Panthers at the Alamodome.
UTSA and Georgia State, which is coached by Bill Curry, have traveled similar paths. The Panthers started playing football in 2010, a year before UTSA, and will become a full-fledged member of the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2014.
Georgia State will play in the Sunbelt Conference next year. The Roadrunners, who are making their transition to the FBS this year in the Western Athletic Conference, move to Conference USA in 2013 and also will have full membership in the FBS in 2014.
Anaya had an outstanding game in UTSA's 27-16 victory against Texas A&M-Commerce in the Roadrunners' home opener last week.
With his father (Francisco), mother (Edith) and brother (Tony) among the crowd of 30,614 at the Alamodome, Anaya set up a touchdown with a 17-yard interception return to the Lions' 7 and finished with six tackles.
Anaya: 'At least I didn't fumble'
UTSA coach Larry Coker joked about Anaya's interception after the game.
"I'm really disappointed in Franky because you've got to score on that," Coker said, chuckling. "You don't have many opportunities when you're a defensive lineman. Franky's a good football player and I'm really happy for him. He had a really good football game today. I've told him that I'm going to fly in his family every week if he plays like that."
Told later that Coker said he should have scored, Anaya quickly replied, "Well, at least I didn't fumble."
Since he's always dreamed of making an interception, Anaya said he wasn't sure if he really had gotten the pick until he got up with the ball after he was tackled. Anaya got the interception while he was dropping back to cover the middle of the field on a blitz.
"My responsibility is to engage the center," Anaya said, explaining his role on the defensive call. "I have to hold him up so my linebacker can go free. As soon as the linebacker passes, I have to sink my hips and back pedal and get right in the middle where he's supposed to be. I wound up being right where the route was. The thing is, I saw the ball come out.
"I remember catching it and getting tackled. I really don't remember the in between. It was very surreal. I held on to the football and that's all that matters. It happened just like our coach drew it up."
Anaya, who is 6-foot-2 and 280 pounds, said he plays hard to set an example for his younger brother. Tony Anaya, who graduated from high school this spring, is a 6-3, 310-pound offensive lineman who is enrolled at Pierce College this fall. He isn't playing football this season, Franky said, but plans to resume his career next year.
Neathery: Anaya 'very much a character'
Defensive coordinator Neal Neathery smiled when he was asked about Franky Anaya after a workout this week. Anaya and starting senior linebacker Brandon Reeves, who also played at Pierce College, were recruited together.
"Those two guys were one of the best decisions we've made in recruiting," Neathery said. "It's a real good thing that they ended up choosing us. They've been very, very good. Franky's been outstanding this year. He's got great instinct, and just a real natural knack for playing the game. He loves it and he's good at it.
"He's not necessarily a technique guy, but he's a guy who makes plays and plays really well on Saturdays. He keeps us laughing, too. He's a pretty good guy to have around. He's very much a character. That's undervalued. He brings something to the table besides what he does on the field.
Anaya said he misses something else besides his family, home and the nice Thousand Oaks weather: sushi.
"The sushi here is not the same" as the one California, Anaya said. "That's one of the foods I really miss besides the home-cooked meals by my grandma."
While UTSA will face a formidable challenge when it starts playing WAC opponents next month with a team composed mostly of freshman and sophomores,, Anaya made it clear he won't be intimidated.
"I like being the underdog," Anaya said. "If you think we're going to lose, great. Let's just go play football. I don't care. You only have 12 opportunities (games). You have to make the best out of it."
That's Franky Anaya.