SAN ANTONIO — Triston Wade came to UT San Antonio with big plans.
The safety from John Tyler wanted to shine as a player, but the main objective was putting the Roadrunners on the college football map.
Since UTSA is going into its third season, the project is still a work in progress. Improvement is evident. After starting with a 4-6 campaign as an independent, UTSA went 8-4 last season with a 3-3 mark in the Western Athletic Conference.
While UTSA is growing, Wade is making a name for himself.
During UTSA’s inaugural season, Wade totaled 39 tackles, intercepted two passes and recovered two fumbles. This past year, he turned up the intensity. The Roadrunners’ secondary struggled at times, but the former All-East Texas selection was the bright spot, picking off four passes and ranking second on the team with 74 tackles while becoming the Roadrunners’ only player to earn All-Western Athletic first-team honors.
Going into his junior season, Wade is hoping the past two years is a preview of things to come. After all, a new challenge awaits the Roadrunners as they leave the WAC for Conference USA.
“Last year did a lot for me,” Wade said. “It put my name out there. Getting all-conference was nice. I knew I could do it, but I have to stay humble. I have to live up to bigger expectations and come back harder. But that’s a good feeling.”
Wade developed a reputation for being a hard-nosed defensive back while roaming the secondary at John Tyler. Because of his success, college coaches started taking notice, including UTSA head coach Larry Coker and his staff. At the time, Wade had never heard of the school that was getting its football program off the ground. Although the Roadrunners didn’t have tradition like Texas or Texas A&M, the opportunity to be part of something new was appealing.
Wade has no doubt that he made the right decision.
“Our cornerback (former JT teammate) Darrien Starling was already here (during the Roadrunners’ redshirt season) and said come down to UTSA,” Wade said. “He told the coaches about me. They started looking at me. When I came here, I liked the people. Coach Coker was here and that told me it was going to be a good program. I always wanted to play Division I football. This was a go.”
Coker is happy Wade chose the Roadrunners.
“He is a football player,” Wade said. “Triston can play the game. He’s a natural. He’s tough. He’s physical. He’s kinda like the safeties I had at Miami. He’s not as big as Sean Taylor, but he’ll bring it like Sean Taylor. He’s a game changer.”
Defense has been Wade’s passion since day one. When starting football during his elementary school days, many of his friends wanted to score touchdowns and send crowds into a frenzy. Wade wanted to steal that thunder by playing on the defensive side.
“I loved contact and tackling people,” Wade said. “When I was younger, my father (Reginald) always said ‘strip the ball.’ I always tried to do that.”
His enthusiasm for making big hits and interceptions has risen, especially in college where the intensity is higher.
“It’s all about staying focused and doing the right thing,” Wade said. “Knowing there’s bigger and better competition, I have to be ready for what is coming. If you make mistakes here, you’re beaten.
“I prepare every day and visualize the plays. At night before I go to sleep, I see it in my mind and think about it. When it happens in a game, I feel like I am ready.”
Wade is counting on that approach to be a factor this season. Overall, UTSA has more experience in all phases of the game. However, the Roadrunners will be tested from beginning to end. In addition to facing UT-El Paso, Marshall, Rice, Alabama-Birmingham, Tulsa, Tulane, North Texas and Louisiana Tech in conference play, the non-conference schedule includes New Mexico, Oklahoma State, Arizona and Houston.
The Roadrunners are picked seventh in the West Division.
Wade believes the Roadrunners are ready to make their presence felt.
“We’ve come so far as a program.” Wade said. “Coming from where we first started, we didn’t have too much. Now, we’re playing teams like Arizona. We’re going from the WAC to Conference USA and we’re getting better. This is a dream come true.
“Last year we lost some close games, because we didn’t finish. The key this year is finishing. We feel like we know how to do that. We’re trying to put UTSA on the map. Not too many people have heard of us. We’re going to try to shock the world as a team and show them what we can do.”