Jeff Traylor is now in his seventh season as the Buckeyes mentor. His teams have gone 6-4, 8-3, 8-3, 13-1, 16-0, 10-2 and, so far in 2006, 3-0.
The following was published in The Gilmer Mirror on the eve of the 2006 season:
Coach Traylor tells Rotarians there's "not a better place in the world" than Gilmer
Buckeye Coach Jeff Traylor spoke to Gilmer Rotary Club Tuesday about the new season, his pride in his players and his appreciation for the community’s support.
He distributed Buckeye cards to each of the club members, saying these were an emblem of the team’s dedicating the season to Josh Nelson, Buckeye linebacker now being treated for leukemia at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas. Each player has one of the cards.
On one side is a photo of the team’s goal, the trophy that will be awarded to the state champions in Conference 3A, Division I at the end of the 2006 season. On the other side is the word Nelson with a cross between the two syllables.
Traylor said the team wanted to do something to help Josh be a part of the season. He became ill during the 2005 football season, but was at first was thought to have pleurisy. By January the diagnosis had been changed to leukemia.
Researching Josh’s last name, the Buckeyes learned that it means “son of a champion.” So they adopted that as their motto for the season. Underneath the NEL+SON on the back of the card is printed, “What will you give?”
Coach Traylor explained that he had read about this idea being originated by Shaquille O’Neal of the Miami Heat basketball team. Each player writes down something he is willing to give up to help his team win.
The coach brought with him three key players, who, he said, exemplify the quality of this year’s Buckeye squad.
He introduced Curtis Brown, who has signed a letter of intent to play at the University of Texas at Austin next year. Curtis promised to practice as hard as he can every day, and the Buckeye coach said UT Coach Mack Brown had promised to help with that.
Introducing G.J. Kinne, Traylor said the quarterback who transferred here from Canton had been through a lot, and he considered it an honor that his family chose to move here.
Kinne said that he is 4,000 yards short of exceeding the league passing record, but to win state, he knows that he will have to be selfless. He said he would put his statistics aside and run every play if he had to. And he promised to work hard every day.
In introducing Jamell Kennedy the coach called him “the greatest kid.” He said Kennedy, who played quarterback last year but starts this season as a wide receiver, “gives all the time.” Kennedy said he was giving up sodas in order to be in better condition.
Speaking of the inspiration Josh Nelson has been to the team, he related how Tyler Morning Telegraph sportswriter Shane Stark had seen a photo of the team with an empty jersey, No. 28 and asked what it signified. On hearing the explanation Stark wrote a story about how Josh had been diagnosed with leukemia in January, and his mother died of the disease a few months later.
Though Josh himself tried to keep everyone from knowing he was sick, the coaches and players alike were highly upset about his condition, Traylor said, The coach told the Tyler writer that Nelson is “a wonderful kid. Thoughtful. A devout Christian. The kind of kid any coach would love to have on his team. . .
“His commitment to the Lord, and his dedication to our youth group at church has led many of our football players to believing in God. The more he hurts, the more and more he gives to the Lord. The kids have come to know how deep Josh’s relationship is with the creator.”
Emphasizing that Gilmer is his hometown and supports him and the team in a wonderful way, Coach Traylor said he wakes up every day “so grateful to be coach here.”
“There’s not a better place in the world,” he said.
Coach Traylor advised fans to get their tickets immediately for the Aug. 31 East Texas Classic against Bishop Gorman in Tyler; 2,000 were sold the first day they were available.