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With Tears Streaming Down His Face, Longhorns DT Paul Boyette Jr. Discusses Texas Coach Charlie Strong's Future

Fifth-year senior defensive tackle Paul Boyette Jr. struggled to keep his composure when addressing the possibility of Texas firing third-year head coach Charlie Strong following regular-season finale.

Senior defensive tackle Paul Boyette Jr. has embraced his seniority-role amongst the young 2016 Texas Longhorns squad.

He's "Papa Bear", the old married man who many guys look to as a leader both on and off the field.

But even Papa Bear has a breaking point, and for Boyette it happened in front of a group of UT beat writers Monday afternoon.

As tears rolled down his cheeks, the fifth-year senior poured his heart out while addressing the future of third-year head coach Charlie Strong.

"He has taught me what it means to be a man," a visibly distraught Boyette said. "My heart hurts for him."

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It was an emotional scene on the ninth-floor of Belmont Hall, but it started even before the defensive tackle battled through tears in praising his coach.

Following the Longhorns' historic loss to Kansas Jayhawks - a first since 1938 - HornsDigest.com columnist Chip Brown reported Texas officials met Sunday to discuss the potential firing of Strong following Friday's TCU game.

As reports poured out of Austin, news of Strong's potentially dire future made its way inside the locker room, and sparked concern within the team.

Strong addressed his players Sunday evening, and kept his message focused on finishing out the regular season with a win and sending its seniors to a bowl game.

In a public-showing of support for the head coach, more than 50 Longhorns - in addition to former football players and University officials - were present for Strong's Monday press conference.

The Longhorns' message was heard loud-and-clear.

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"We love and support our coach through everything," Boyette said of the reason behind the public appearance.

"It's that simple. We owe it to him because he gave us the opportunity to play."

There is no doubt Strong holds solid relationships with his players - who have been known to toss the head coach up in the air after big wins throughout his Texas career.

But some may wonder if Strong's bond is stronger between the guys he personally recruited, as compared to those left-over from the previous coaching regime. 

Any questions of his relationships were put to bed after seeing Boyette - a former Mack Brown recruit who was a sophomore when Strong was hired - break down with emotion while pleading his case for Texas to keep the head coach.

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 "I don't think you're ever going to find a head coach that loves his players like he does, and genuinely cares," he said.

"Coach Strong is everything ... For me, he has taught me a lot of life lessons.

"I think the biggest thing when a mother and father send their son off to college and to a good program is to send them to somebody they can trust. That's Coach Strong and this coaching staff.

"I've seen it. I've seen guys leave, I've seen guys pick themselves up, get on the straight-and-narrow path and have success, and that's because of Coach Strong."

The outpouring of the Longhorns' support for Strong was more evident Monday than ever before, but it could be too little, too late.

It appears the writing could already be on the wall for Strong following the embarrassing loss to a one-win Kansas team, and that does not sit well with Boyette.

"Wins and losses do matter - especially at the University of Texas - but I don't think you can only give a person 36-months to turn a program around," the DT said.

"He doesn't want to fail us and we don't want to fail him. From the outside looking in, it may look like that, but we're so blessed to have Coach Strong as a head coach here.

"I'd follow Coach Strong anywhere. Anybody on this team understands what type of guy he is, what type of father figure he is and how he's helped them grow so much."

UT interim athletic director Mike Perrin has maintained that Strong's future will not be determined until the conclusion of the 2016 regular season - a decision that could have adverse effects if the Longhorns pull-off the win and the team rallies behind the head coach.

Boyette has a different stance on keeping the situation in limbo. 

"No person deserves to be in this type of limbo at all," said Boyette. "Seeing what Coach Strong deals with on a daily basis since he's been here has taught me a lot. 

"Everyday waking up, being talked about on social media, trending on Twitter, it's hard for somebody to continue to be strong and encourage his players, and I tip my hat to him.

"Speaking on behalf of the senior class, speaking on behalf of the guys who have played for him previously, he still deserves to be here."

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Boyette is no stranger to turmoil or coaching changes. He personally has gone through four defensive coordinators, three position coaches and two head coaches during his five seasons playing for the Longhorns.

While accepting change is likely second nature by now for the senior, witnessing someone else potentially receive credit for the foundation Strong has built for Texas football would be a hard pill for Boyette to swallow.

"It's sad and kind of leaves a bad taste in my mouth," he said. "Whoever comes in is going to be reaping the benefits of what the guy before him did. 

"There's nothing wrong with that. But the guys who have (previously played under Strong) and the guys here now understand that if next year they hit the jackpot, go to the national championship and win the Big 12, they will know who got them there."

The Longhorns last-ditch effort to extend the 2016 football season and potentially save Strong's job goes down Friday, when 5-6 Texas takes on 5-5 TCU in Austin.

With outside noise at its peak, Boyette believes the Longhorns' will have no problem focusing focus on task at hand - fighting for Strong and becoming bowl eligible with a win over the Horned Frogs.

"Everybody has self-pride and will play for each other, especially the seniors and what we've been through these last five years," Boyette said of his final game wearing burnt orange. 

"The one thing is we just have to go out there and play with passion, play for one another and play for Coach Strong."

 

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