From student-athletes to professional football players

Maddie Cortez, Staff Writer

UTSA football has redefined what it means to be a Roadrunner. Their national recognition sprang up while celebrating their tenth year of Roadrunner football in 2021. Throughout the 11 years of the football program, there has been an impressive number of former Roadrunners reaching the National Football League (NFL). As I have unraveled the former Roadrunners performances, optimism and anticipated promise await in Roadrunner football. 

If you consider yourself a Roadrunner football fan, you should know the bull-rush defensive lineman Marcus Davenport. UTSA’s former star player made history as the first Roadrunner to be drafted in the first round of an NFL Draft, joining the New Orleans Saints in 2018. During his UTSA run, he was awarded the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year due to his senior year performance, where he recorded 55 tackles and 8.5 sacks. Davenport utilized his size, physicality and power during his collegiate career, and this was reflected in his highly-graded prospect score. The former Roadrunner was quick to make an impact as a newly drafted Saint. He claimed his first career sack in a week three matchup against the Atlanta Falcons during the 2018 season. During week eight of the season, Davenport had an exciting two-sack performance helping the Saints secure the win against the Minnesota Vikings. As Davenport has made his mark in the NFL, he has remained healthy and continued to optimize his 6’6, 250-pound strength as a solid defensive player. As of 2021, Davenport has racked up 111 tackles, 19.5 sacks, six forced fumbles and four pass deflections. Davenport has shown us where hard work and dedication can take you, and we look forward to cheering for his success while representing UTSA on the big field. 

A scout said, “Elite athletic talent. Tariq Woolen has steered his way to making it in the big leagues,” and rightfully so. The Fort Worth native made San Antonio his home and stage from 2017-2021. This 6’4 force started at UTSA as a wide receiver and then transitioned to cornerback during his junior year — his first time on defense in his football career. Woolen noted that it took a new mindset to adjust to the position as it required more aggression and physicality, and it was clear that he executed the new perspective flawlessly. His physical gifts go without saying, he is a rare gem for his speed and size. Woolen became a favored prospect when he clocked the second-best 40-yard dash time at 4.26 seconds at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine and the fastest time for anyone over six feet tall. This speed for a 205-pound corner makes him a conversation piece. After proving himself on and off the field, it was announced during this year’s fifth-round draft that Woolen would be playing for the Seattle Seahawks. This new Seattle resident is said to be the perfect mold for Pete Carroll, the head coach for the Seahawks. Carroll seems to believe that Woolen has captivating potential, and San Antonians will be rooting for his success during his anticipated season. 

Another outstanding Roadrunner who has made his way to the NFL is San Francisco 49ers guard Spencer Burford. Burford brought his talent to UTSA in 2018 and was the team’s first-ever four-star recruit. He started all 10 games and was a vital piece of the offensive line right off the bat. Throughout his career at UTSA, Burford was as solid as they come and played all across the offensive line. Still, his talent was exhibited during his junior and senior seasons as a Roadrunner. During his junior year, Burford could only give up four sacks in 388 pass-blocking snaps, which helped lead the Roadrunners to a 7-5 season and finish second in the C-USA West Conference. During his senior year, Burford started 12 games and was a vital part of a record-setting Roadrunner offense that San Antonio will not soon forget. His efforts not only allowed UTSA to have an unmatched season offensively but also led to UTSA winning its first-ever conference championship game. As a prospect, Burford was a “long-armed guard/tackle who is fueled by energy and athletic ability,” according to his NFL prospect analysis. Burford was drafted in the fourth round by the San Francisco 49ers and made an impressive NFL debut during the preseason. His Roadrunner family will wish him success during this upcoming season and for many seasons to come. 

A few other Roadrunners that deserve notable recognition are Sincere McCormick and Kevin Strong. McCormick was a star running back during his career playing for UTSA, winning many accolades and having an outstanding junior year season in which he helped lead UTSA during the unforgettable 2021 season and would eventually win the C-USA Championship Game MVP. Although McCormick did not get drafted in the 2022 NFL Draft, his hopes of playing in the NFL are still strong as he was recently signed by the Las Vegas Raiders as an undrafted free agent. 6’4, 295-pound defensive end, Strong played five seasons with the UTSA Roadrunners and accumulated 106 tackles, 7.5 sacks and three pass deflections. In 2019, Strong signed on with the Detroit Lions as an undrafted free agent. His rookie season concluded with him attaining five tackles, and one pass defended. Since then he was waived by the Lions and has recently been signed by the Tennessee Titans where he earned his spot on the active roster after moving up from the practice squad. 

With only 11 years of Roadrunner football, it is easy to say this is only the beginning of Roadrunners making their mark in the NFL. As we start the 2022 season and players continue to give UTSA a new spotlight, they can count on the support of their Roadrunner fans.