Traylor reflects on Manuel Johnson on eve of national championship

When Oklahoma takes the field Thursday night, three Gilmer Buckeyes will have a chance to bring home a national championship. Manuel Johnson, Lamar Harris, and Justin Johnson are all Sooners. Coach Jeff Traylor says it's an honor watching his former players grow up.

"It's an unbelievable feeling of pride for our community," Traylor said. "I know for those kids parents, and for us coaches as well."

"I reflect on when they were in junior high, growing up, passing TAKS, and all the things that go on behind the scenes just to get them there, and what a relief it is to get them signed."

Especially sweet for Gilmer is the success of Johnson, Gilmer's state champion quarterback turned Oklahoma receiver. Traylor says Johnson was his first D-I athlete, and opened the doors for all Buckeyes.

"Since Manuel, and we won the state championship it's kind of got the ball rolling. I've told people, I think Manuel Johnson is almost the face of this program. He's the one that went out there first. Kevin Hollis went to Kansas State, Tae Bowser went to Mississippi State, but the reason those kids were found was because those recruiters were in here looking at Manuel."

"I'm sure those kids in the fieldhouse to this day get tired of us talking about Manuel," Traylor chuckles, " because we talk about him quite often."

Even with eight Buckeyes playing in bowl games this year, this is the national championship. Traylor says Thursday night, Gilmer will be in front of the television.

"I would just about imagine that everybody who lives in Gilmer will be watching Manuel."

Reid Kerr can be reached at