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BON Exclusive Interview: Maulerson Speaks

S&C coach Bennie Wylie is a big reason why Jake Raulerson is a Texas commit (Photo by the author).
S&C coach Bennie Wylie is a big reason why Jake Raulerson is a Texas commit (Photo by the author).

Jake Raulerson is a football player.

For those who have actually been paying attention to the 2013 Texas recruiting class, that's hardly a revelation. He's a kid who would look at home in a leather helmet. He's also a prospect who had his choice of schools, as Texas head coach Mack Brown made clear to him following a 2011 summer camp in Austin:

"Son, you can play football anywhere in the country, I just hope it's at Texas," said the Texas head coach, according to Jake's father, Jay.

However, Brown seeing and accepting his unique versatility was a key to the Celina lineman's recruitment -- when other schools were talking about him as a guard or a center or even Alabama wanting him as a Jack linebacker, Brown talked about getting Raulerson on campus and then worrying about where he would play, indicating that he wasn't caught up in specifying a position early, something that resonated with the Raulersons.

After all, Raulerson had dominated that summer camp to the extent that strength and conditioning coach Bennie Wylie walked over and told him that he was the best lineman at the camp, on both sides of the ball, regardless of age. According to ESPN, Brown at one point called out a challenge ($) to the assembled talent, wondering aloud whether anyone could stop the irresistible force and immovable object from Celina.

Even at that early stage in Raulerson's recruitment by Texas, Brown recognized that the semantics of position didn't matter -- the kid known as Maulerson is simply a football player and his recruitment by Texas reflected that. Get him on campus and worry about everything else later.

Most light college offensive linemen are virtually guaranteed a redshirt in college because of their size, but Raulerson is uniquely qualified to contribute early, even if those contributions end up being at positions different from his eventual destination. Football player, remember?

Slated to start out at defensive end and work situationally as a tight end, Raulerson told Burnt Orange Nation on Saturday in an interview at the state track meet that he's been working on catching tennis balls to improve his hands, adding that he has improved in that regard already, but that he doesn't plan on playing the position in 7-on-7 this summer at the request of his coaches.

Currently at 255 pounds and sleeping better since surgery to repair a deviated septum earlier in the year, Raulerson has set a goal of 265 pounds by the end of the summer.

He'll also be participating in several camps -- one of the Texas camps, of course, as well as the inaugural Rivals Five-Star Challenge, and The Opening. He'll also be at the US Army All-American after initially accepting an invitation to the Under Armour in Orlando. Why the change? Well, more of his future teammates will be in San Antonio, of course, including Arlington Martin running back Kyle Hicks, who seemingly announced his addition to the game on Twitter Monday evening.

And Raulerson is 100% about team. Exactly the reason why he was roaming Mike Myers stadium when I caught up with him -- to support the Celina track and field team.

Like everyone else, Raulerson is happy about the development of the recruiting class and mentioned wanting guys with a national championship in mind. Winning a national championship is a goal that has been on the lips of virtually every Texas commit in the class, often unprompted.

There's a reason for that, and that reason is the perception of recovering health surrounding the Texas program.

"The program is great," opined the big lineman. "There were a couple off seasons, but with coaches like Bennie Wylie, he's going to make us the best athletes we can be and I know that because he works his butt off just as hard as the players do. He's out there working every day.

We had a good season with the first-year coaches and now they're getting into their groove and it's going to turn out to be good."

After growing up a Florida fan -- Raulerson pointed out that he's not from Florida, as often mistakenly believed -- visits around the country, including a trip last summer that took him through the heart of SEC country and a visit to Stanford just before making his decision in favor the Longhorns shortly following National Signing Day, the influence of Bennie Wylie weighed heavily with Raulerson. Not just because of the praise that the strength and conditioning coach lavished on him at the summer camp, either.

"It was a big part, a very big part. You spend 80 or 90% of your time when you're in college with your strength coach, so he's the one who will push you and make you better and he's the one I clicked with. He's the best that I've seen, bar none, and I've seen 20, 25 strength coaches."

Strong words and ones that Raulerson unquestionably has the perspective to offer -- his recruitment may have ended early in the process in regards to recruiting for the Longhorns, but he did his due diligence by visiting schools around the country before becoming a Longhorn.

More than just why he chose Texas, the two-way standout also shed some light on why he chose to adopt the hashtag #DT2013 for his class, instead of #TGOD, or Texas Gang or Die, the slogan for the 2012 group.

"I wanted to be unique; I didn't want to steal their moniker," revealed Raulerson. "It's still Texas Gang or Die, but I just thought that since it's going to be a small class that it's going to be an elite group of people and the most elite group of people in the country is just a dream team. It just kind of clicked and sounded good."

Dream Team 2013, it was. And is, thanks in no small part to Raulerson, who has seemingly managed to strike the delicate balance between being the so-called "Bell Cow" of the class, designated the leader of the 2013 class by Mack Brown upon his commitment, and letting other prospects make their own decisions, maintaining their own agency and free will.

When Sealy wide receiver Ricky Seals-Jones was ready to make his decision, Raulerson tweeted RSJ a picture taken in his Texas gear, holding a sign saying, "Hook 'em, RSJ." The talented jumbo athlete and basketball star subsequently chose Texas.

When Belton tight end Durham Smyhe was deciding between Texas and Stanford, Raulerson tweeted him wondering if he wanted to make it a baker's dozen in the 2013 class. The big tight end with natural pass-catching ability subsequently committed to Texas.

Subtly persuasive and without exerted pressure, a marked contrast to Maulerson's "take no prisoners" approach on the football field.

Raulerson did indicate that he keeps up with Torrodney Prevot, the Alief Taylor defensive end he went against in the highly-publicized one-on-one battle at the NFTC in Fort Worth back in March, but the sense is that any pressure he provides is more in the form of those previously mentioned rather than coming out and telling kids they should come to Texas.

Raulerson didn't want to use the TGOD moniker because he felt like he didn't belong to him, so it's hardly a surprise that he would view decisions by fellow recruits in the same light.

One thing Raulerson can tell uncommitted prospects with Texas offers is that Mack Brown will take care of them if they do commit. In a unique look at the commitment process, Raulerson recorded his phone call to Brown and the staff when he informed them of his pledge, which featured a moving moment in which Brown told Raulerson that if he got injured or if something happened to the Texas head coach, his scholarship would be honored, no matter what.

Jake commits to Texas (via Gatordaze123)

Just like his own commitment, the pledge by Brown to Raulerson was not something that he took lightly.

"I've heard some schools say you're not guaranteed your scholarship come Signing Day," he said. "I know that with Coach Brown, I will have a scholarship. He's going to keep his commitment to me and I'm going to keep my commitment to him."

Jake Raulerson -- football player, cheerleader, Bell Cow, Texas commit.