UTSA football coach Larry Coker turned 65 two months ago but he still has plenty of swagg or swag slang nowadays for swagger Roadrunners junior center Nate Leonard said Tuesday after practice.
It's a swagg with two g's, Leonard said, smiling.
Leonard, the team's resident blogger and quasi-philosopher, gushed about Coker while recounting an exchange between the coach and a game official at a critical point in the fourth quarter of UTSA's 21-13 season-opening win over New Mexico on Saturday night.
With the Roadrunners clinging to a 14-13 lead on the road, the Lobos appeared to be in good shape when they downed a punt at the UTSA 1 with 7:05 left.
The ball bounced close enough to the goal line that the referee told Coker that UTSA had the option to have the play reviewed by instant replay.
We'll let Leonard pick it from there.
It's one of those things that you think you would see in a movie, Leonard said. The ball's punted and I think it crosses the plane of the goal line, with the ball to us. So I'm kind of chilling near the sideline, waiting for a call to come in from the referees.
Well, one of the referees runs over to Coach Coker because they're (officials) kind of discussing it. They say, 'Coach Coker, you can review this play. You want to review the play? We may review it.' Coach Coker just looked at them in the eyes and told them, 'No, we'll go 99.' So I ran out on the field and set the huddle. It was awesome.
UTSA mounted 99-yard scoring drive after punt
If the officials had ruled the ball rolled into the end zone before the play was blown dead, it would have been a touchback and UTSA would have taken possession at its 20.
I thought we were going to get the ball at the 20, said Leonard, who graduated from McKinney High School.
Instead, the Roadrunners started the march from the shadows of their own goal post.
The Roadrunners rewarded Coker for his confidence, carving out an eight-play, 99-yard drive that ended with Eric Soza's 8-yard touchdown toss to running back David Glasco with three minutes left.
Leonard said Coker's decision to eschew instant replay on the punt that preceded the drive made the march all that much more dramatic and gratifying.
It's like he was calling his shot like Babe Ruth, Leonard said. It was like he was pointing to the center-field fence. It was crazy. It just reinforced why I play for this man. I mean, he has so much confidence in us.
Why wouldn't you want to play for someone who believes you can drive the ball on a Mountain West team 99 yards? That's awesome. That's what you want to hear. I was so pumped up. I didn't need any motivation.
Leonard said he thinks the only other coach who heard the exchange between Coker and the official was Jim Marshall, who coaches the UTSA offensive line.
He came up me in the locker room and said, 'That was awesome what Coach Coker did,' Leonard said. It was. It was great.
UTSA plays Oklahoma State in home opener Saturday
While Coker isn't loud or overly animated, he's had no problems connecting with the Roadrunners since he was hired as UTSA's first football coach in 2009.
Coker led Miami to the BCS national championship in 2001 and coached the Hurricanes for six seasons before getting fired in 2006.
He's got that factor, Leonard said. It's one of those things like the great athletes. They just have something different about them. He has it. He has the attitude. He has the character. He knows how to handle every player. It doesn't matter where you're from. It doesn't matter what you've been through.
He knows exactly how to handle you. He knows exactly how to handle a team, how to make a team win. He did it at Miami, yes, but he comes in here with new recruits and started this program from scratch, and he knows how to do it. It's unbelievable to be able to experience this firsthand.
UTSA plays its home opener against nationally ranked Oklahoma State at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Alamodome.
They're good, very good, Leonard said. I'm excited about it. Growing up, I wanted to play in the Big 12. I'm grown and I want to play for UTSA. It's that simple. I want to take the field and play Big 12 schools and show them that San Antonio's got something here. It's that simple.
That something starts with Coker, who is proving that even sextegenerians can have swagg.