HD Exclusive: A Look at Jean Delance's Journey to Texas

Horns Digest has an inside look into the road that led Jean Delance to Texas.

Incoming freshman Jean Delance did not have early dreams of becoming a football player. In fact, his love for the game did not surface until later in adolescence.  

A bright-eyed youngster living in Georgia, Delance first put on the pads early in his childhood, though he would not play in a game for years to come. 

"I put on pads for two practices when I was in the second grade, but I didn't get to play in a game because I got sick," Delance said of his entry into football. "I had my cleats and everything, but I didn't play again until the seventh grade." 

Putting football in the past, Delance tried his hand at basketball, and became a bit of a young stud on the hardwood. 

"I played basketball in middle school and was pretty good. I was almost dunking at the time. I actually think (playing basketball) helped me become an even better football player. I was a little chunkier guy, but was really athletic. Basketball helped me tone up a bit, but it really helped me develop good footwork and speed." 

However, basketball was one of two activities that prepared Delance for the gridiron. The other activity will come as a bit of a surprise. 

"Not many people know this but I was actually in band for a while," the four-star OT said. "I won five or six medals and was a great tuba player in middle school. My mom would encourage me to push for it and would say I could probably get a scholarship in band. The band coaches also told me that I could be really good. 

"The only reason I ever stopped wasn't necessarily because of peer pressure, but more because guys were always saying I couldn't be in band and play football at the same time. My football coach told me I should stick with football because I will enjoy it more. He would joke with me and say, 'Are you really going to run to the sideline at half time and pick up a tuba?" 

© Greg Powers
 After receiving a lot of encouragement from various coaches, Delance decided to put down the tuba and focus on football. He began his football career playing defensive end - a position though he no longer plays, but still loves to this day.

"I always wanted to take the ball. I wanted to be the person chasing after the ball and attacking the quarterback. My coach came to me and said I was getting a little big, so he wanted to move me to offensive tackle. 

"I was not happy. I said, 'Coach, come on. I'm still fast. I'm doing good.'" 

While his coach agreed with his comments, he saw a different path for Delance's future. And it only took one sentence to convince him to change  positions. 

"He told me he could see me playing at Alabama some day if I moved to o-line. That was the first time I heard anyone say something like that to me, and that's when it really started to click." 

Offers came early for the 6-foot, 300-pound big man, but one that stood above the rest came from Bob Stoops and Oklahoma. Delance verbally committed to the Sooners during his junior season and fully anticipated playing out his college career in Norman. 

Little did he know, a 10 second clip would quickly change the course of his future. 

In early March, 2015, a video of Oklahoma fraternity SAE chanting racially insensitive remarks surfaced and took the internet by storm. While the video content was offensive, the breaking point that led to Delance's decommitment from the Sooners was based on the staff's lack of initiative in addressing this issue. 

"It was more disturbing that none of the coaches reached out to me about it," Delance said. "The coaches were not even aware enough to reach out to recruits after the video came out. They did not call me or anything. 

"I remember turning on the TV and first learning about (the video) then. I initially told myself I would give the coaches some time to reach out to me about it. Then time kept going by, and I still hadn't heard anything from the staff.

"If I were in the coaches position, I would have reached out to all recruits about it and told them that the video does not represent the school. But that didn't happen.

"Having no coaches reach out to me or even make an effort to discuss it said a lot. At that point, I knew Oklahoma wasn't the place for me and these were not the coaches I wanted to be coached by." 

Following his decommitment from OU, Delance had his eyes set on playing in the SEC, and had no intentions to commit to a Big 12 program. 

But Charlie Strong worked his magic with his typical slow yet steady recruiting approach. 

Horns Digest

"Coach Strong is great with finishing. That's something he does so well. He may not start off strong with you, he will let you have your little process, but he is going to finish it and get who he wants. 

"At first (Strong) would kind of talk to me, but not as much as others. He would just be like 'Oh don't worry, we're going to get you.' 

"I told him I wasn't sure if I wanted to play at Texas or in the Big 12. I was trying to go to the SEC. I thought about the Big 12 with OU, but I was not trying to go back. Then I started liking the coaches more and more and felt the vibe, then that was it." 

Though his stance on Texas began to shift in the Longhorns favor, Delance was not entirely sold and would not be sold until personnel changes came following the 2015 season.  

Delance - who did not have a relationship with former OL coach Joe Wickline - took a wait-and-see approach with Texas as Strong hired offensive line coach Matt Mattox. 

That was all it took for the Longhorns to gain his commitment 

"Once Coach Strong came to me and told me they were going to be changing things around, I waited to see what would happen. Then they got the new offensive line coach and I was like, 'Yeah. It's done.'"

Mattox worked diligently to get to know the Longhorns top OL prospects in the 2016 recruiting class, and put everything on the table during his first discussion with Delance.

"He came and talked to me before the Under Armour game. He said I have to make the decision on my own, but he really wanted me and told me I was one of the guys he needed.

"He said, 'I haven't been here this whole time. I know you don't know me and I don't know you, but I'm going to get to know you and you will be like my own son once you get here. I will prove to you that I will be a great offensive line coach. You don't have to worry about what might happen, I can tell you it is what will happen.'"

Delance bought in and committed to Texas during the Under Armour All-America game.

It was a long road that led to where he is today, and through it all, his relationship and admiration of Strong and his staff helped land Delance in Austin. 

Delance will move in to the dorms June 1 following his graduation from North Mesquite High School and is looking into majoring in chemical engineering. He is focused on starting his career as a Longhorn during his freshman season.

"Coach Strong is all about finding the guys who want it most. He doesn't care about your history or how much experience you have at the collegiate level. He looks at it like if this guy doesn't produce, we need to get someone in here producing.

"He's been telling me I gotta come in here and take care of business because it's about who wants it most. 

"I want it most and I'm ready to show it."

Taylor Gaspar is a senior reporter for Horns Digest and Scout.com. 

Follow Taylor on Twitter: Taylor_Gaspar

Follow Horns Digest on Twitter: HornsDigest


Horns Digest Top Stories