There's no denying the fact that senior safety Dylan Haines is proud to be a part of Texas football. After spending his first two seasons riding the bench under the previous regime, Haines received a fresh start when Charlie Strong arrived in Austin, and he took advantage of the opportunity.
The former walk-on's hard work and dedication paid-off tremendously, earning him a scholarship spot, a starting role at safety and the opportunity to be the feel-good story during a time when controversy and negativity surrounded the UT football program.
Two years have passed since his story debuted, and Haines has continued to prove his worth to the staff. He remains on scholarship, was chosen to represent Texas Longhorns at Big 12 Media Days, has held onto his starting job and led the team in interceptions for two consecutive seasons.
From the outside his story appears to be headed down the same feel-good path. However, perception may not be reality in this case.
"The way I see my story is there are two different kind of viewpoints," Haines said.
"Some say, 'Look at this guy, he worked hard to get where he is, through work ethic, hard work or whatever.' Then some people view me as a failure in the recruiting system, like 'Wow, they have no one left, so they have to put in a walk-on.'
"It can be taken two different ways."
As much as he tries to avoid it, Haines has not been able to drown out the negativity tossed his way since 2014.
He sees the Texas fans bashing him and calling for anyone to replace him. His parents read the work of media belittling and/or questioning their son's ability. And all of it has made him come to a harsh reality.
"I have my fans, and then I have a good amount who think I should not be playing or someone should have passed me up by now, or (my starting) is a negative outlook on the program or something like that," Haines said.
"A lot of people write about me and a lot of people want to see me get pushed off by someone younger or more 'talented or athletic' in their eyes. I see it all the time and it gets sent to me and my parents."
While impossible to entirely ignore the comments, Haines does not feel he owes anything to his critics. He has proven himself to the people who matter and only seeks the approval of those who have stood by his side and supported him during his time at Texas.
"I don't have anything to prove to those people," said Haines. "I'm going to stick with the same thing that has gotten me to where I am. I know I'm good enough to play here and I've proved myself time, and time again.
"Although what I do may never be good enough for (some) fans of the Texas Longhorns, the coaches and the people who have given me the position to be where I am have said I've been doing a tremendous job.
"I'm just trying to make the people who gave me the opportunity - Coach Strong, Coach Bedford, my parents - proud because really that's all that matters to me."
Through all of the negativity, the feel-good story is still alive and well.
Haines understands he is living the dream of many young athletes overlooked by college football programs. He hopes his story becomes a beacon of hope to walk-ons everywhere that hard work and dedication pays off to those willing to put in the effort.
"I'm a living example of it doesn't always matter how many stars or how many offers you have coming out of high school," he said. "I had zero stars and zero offers. But if you think you can play and you work hard and do the things you're supposed to do, you could have a spot on a Division-I college football team."
Haines' senior year begins Sunday night against Notre Dame in one of the biggest home games in recent Texas football history. He is expected to pick up career-start No. 25 in front of a sold-out crowd at Royal-Memorial Stadium.
Haines knows his haters will be waiting for him to fail during his senior season, but it doesn't phase him. His focus remains on the same ideals that have gotten him to where he is today: hard work, persistence and dedication.
"There are all of these people who want to push me off the field and want someone to take my place, yet I've stood my ground," he said. "I've solidified myself as someone who's going to go out there every week and prepare and do the things I need to do.
"If I were to get passed up, it wouldn't be because of a lack of effort on my end. I'm going to give it my all and that's all I can do.
"If someone were to come in and prove they can go out there, prepare harder, make more plays and be consistent, then they have every right to start over me. Until that happens I'm going to stay where I'm at."