KINGSVILLE — Mike Salinas is no stranger to the rich football tradition at Texas A&M-Kingsville.
As a former student, player and assistant coach, the Javelinas’ 12th head coach in team history would love nothing more than to help get the program back on its winning track.
The last time A&M-Kingsville won a conference championship was in 2009, and the most recent national championship was 43 years ago in 1979.
Since 2010, the Javelinas have had five head football coaches and three winning seasons.
In 2022, Salinas seeks to end the drought.
“I think this football team will continue to improve,” Salinas said. “You’re going to have a group of guys who play extremely hard on Saturday and hopefully show great tenacity, and their efforts on the pitch will be better than anyone we’ve come up against.”
Since being named head coach in 2019, Salinas has never had a full offseason to work with his players and coaching staff.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the 2020 season to an abrupt end and in 2021 the Javelinas played 10 games in the fall.
On Saturday, Salinas and his players played their first spring football game in three years.
The blue and white teams played two full halves which resulted in a 14-14 tie.
“It was our first spring ball, so it was the first traditional spring football game our guys had,” Salinas said. “Our guys went back to a regular training cycle and we didn’t have to train in the fall or play a season in the spring. It’s the first year of normality and without a pandemic. It was good to dive in with both feet and pour into our guys.”
The Javelinas had several players who made the most of Saturday’s scrimmage, particularly at quarterback.
Quarterbacks Wade Freeman and Qyntyn Pilcher each received significant playing time and both recorded a touchdown pass.
Pilcher, who is in his first season after playing at Sierra College in Rocklin, Calif., for the past two seasons, said he is still acclimating to the South Texas weather, but has enjoyed learning about the Javelinas offense and getting to know his new teammates.
“I’m coming from an Air Raid attack so my recoil game is more dangerous, but I can also hurt you with my feet,” Pilcher said after the scrum. “The offense we ran on the west coast is different and it’s been tough, but it’s something I will continue to work on. All of these guys have welcomed me with open arms. It’s a great brotherhood here and I couldn’t think of a better place to be.”
Salinas said having a normal fall and spring has helped the team tremendously, and the program still plans to sign more transfers ahead of the Javelinas’ season start on September 3 against North America at the Javelina Stadium.
“We’re optimistic about where we are,” Salinas said. “We’re not happy with where we ended up a year ago. I believe we’re going in the right direction and our team is in the right shape right now. We’re happy with the fall.”
welcome to the house
More than a dozen men of letters and longtime Javelina football fans showed up to watch the Javelinas spring game on Saturday.
Some have traveled from the Rio Grande Valley, Shiner and even as far as California.
Joe Irving, who played Texas A&M-Kingsville from 1996-97 with Salinas, made the 1,500-mile trip from Long Beach, Calif., to support his former teammate and friend.
“It’s been super nostalgic since Mike is the head coach now,” Irving said. “I wanted to come and support him. It’s a totally different atmosphere here. I’m from California and football is not the same as in Texas. It’s a family here. It’s been 25 years and I always talk to the players on my team. This place has changed my life.”
Former Javelina quarterback and current Rio Grande City La Grulla football coach Abel Gonzalez was also present to support his former team.
Gonzalez played quarterback for the Javelinas from 1999 to 2002.
“We’re thrilled for Mike Salinas,” Gonzalez said. “He’s a former teammate for all of us. The Javelinas are close to our hearts and we want to see them succeed.”
Gonzalez said that while the program has struggled in recent years, the City of Kingsville has always been supportive of the football program. Much of this support comes from the University and the desire to see the team succeed.
“The tradition runs deep…before we played and it will continue,” Gonzalez said. “A lot of people love Javelina football and this university in general. They will always have our support.”
Scott Dobbs, who has been a Javelinas fan since 1972, said seeing A&M-Kingsville have a winning season would mean a lot to the community, and he said he believed Salinas was the coach to help them do just that.
“It would be nice because it would be in Mike’s third year,” Dobbs said. “It would be nice to have a former Javelina to start the team. They struggled, but this team is important to the city and the community. People support them in difficult times and I have known coach Salinas since he played here. He was a close friend of my son and he has energy and motivation. He will form a good team.”
Rey Castillo is a sports reporter for the Caller-Times and a graduate of Texas A&M-Kingsville. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @reycastillo361