There are two particularly important truths about high school football coaches in the state of Texas -- they're fiercely loyal to their players and they take care of their own.
Remove a Texas kid from scholarship? Don't expect to ever get another player from that high school. Hire a Texas high school football coach? Expect that his former peers will do their best to ensure his success.
The Texas Longhorns are in the latter camp with new tight ends coach Jeff Traylor, who joined head coach Charlie Strong's staff after a remarkable run of success in his hometown of Gilmer.
"They're excited for me," Traylor said of those East Texas coaches. "They need me to do well. Whenever a high school coach gets in this business we always root for that guy, because you always want your shot at this type of situation. Coach Strong was nice enough to give me my shot, so [the East Texas coaches] want me to do well. We have to get some kids in here [from East Texas] as well though."
The extent to which a high school coach influences the recruitments of their players varies greatly on a case-by-case basis, but there's no question that those relationships are tremendously important.
Stakes are also quite high in East Texas right now because Texas A&M is gaining significant traction in that region, which has much easier access to College Station than to Austin and a closer cultural identity to the Aggies.
"The hardest thing about recruiting East Texas kids is just getting them down here," Traylor said. "Most East Texas towns are rural-type towns, and the city of Austin can be quite intimidating to be honest with you. I think I can help alleviate some of that concern and maybe some of my buddies will help get some of those kids down here."
Daingerfield product Chris Jones, a wide receiver in the 2010 class, struggled to adjust to life in Austin, transferring out of the program after only one season and fellow Daingerfield alum Steve Edmond's slow development may have had something to do with a little bit of culture shock, as well.
In that regard, Traylor probably got to Texas a year too late -- the Horns lost out on numerous East Texas recruits to the Aggies in 2015, including consensus five-star defensive tackle Daylon Mack and consensus four-star prospects like running back Jay Bradford, linebacker/safety Justin Dunning, safety Larry Pryor, and cornerback Roney Elam. In 2014, Texas missed on one of Traylor's former players, linebacker Josh Walker.
Fortunately, Traylor has some to build relationships with East Texas prospects because the only uncommitted player from the region with a Longhorns offer is Nacogdoches safety Brandon Jones, one of the country's top prosepcts at his position.
Unfortunately, the 2017 class doesn't currently feature a ton of regional talent yet, but Texas did extend an offer to Tyler John Tyler wide receiver Damion Miller at the Sunday minicamp. Other potential targets that could emerge are Center wide receiver Octavius Evans and Clarksville defensive end Clashon Gaffney.
With Traylor likely to remain on staff for several years, there's time to translate those coaching ties into recruiting success in an important battleground region that will surely feature some more key Longhorns targets in the coming years.
Of the three assistant hires this offseason, the addition of Traylor looked like the true home run in recruiting with LSU having Louisiana on lockdown. Now the former Gilmer head coach just has to follow through with some sucess, starting with Brandon Jones.