SAN ANTONIO -- Robert Singletary stood under the lights at the year-old UTSA practice complex earlier this month and recalled the day more than four years ago when he met Larry Coker.
It was in 2010, and Singletary was still a senior in high school.
At the time, Coker was in the initial stages of trying to build the UTSA football program.
In talking to Singletary, the coach didn't sugarcoat his recruiting pitch.
"I remember Coach Coker telling me [UTSA] won't play a single game [in 2010] and might not even be [Division I] by the time I graduate," he said.
A lot has happened for both parties since then.
UTSA, under Coker, has played in 34 games and has won 19 of them.
This year, the fourth-year Roadrunners not only have progressed to the NCAA's Football Bowl Subdivision, but they also have emerged as one of the favorites to win a Conference USA title.
As for Singletary, he passed on his initial opportunity to play for the Roadrunners, electing instead to go with Art Briles and the Baylor Bears.
But after toiling for a dizzying two years at Baylor -- a stretch that included two position changes for Singletary and a change in defensive coordinators -- he elected to transfer.
Singletary enrolled at UTSA in the summer of 2012.
Now, as a senior defensive end and a pass-rushing specialist, it is Singletary who has emerged as one of the Roadrunners' top players.
In fact, he has been nominated along with UTSA senior offensive guard Scott Inskeep to the preseason watch list for the Rotary Lombardi Award, which goes annually to the nation's top interior lineman.
The nomination comes in the wake of a season in which Singletary tied for the team lead in sacks with five in only eight games.
Recently, Singletary has been limited in practices with a shoulder injury, but coaches are saying they expect him to be ready for the Aug. 29 opener at Houston.
"You know he'll be ready," defensive line coach Eric Roark said. "We anticipate that because of who and what he is."
Singletary is a player who has paid his dues at UTSA.
He toiled on the scout team during 2012, when he sat out under NCAA transfer rules.
After only scratching the surface of his potential in 2013, he's bidding to make up for lost time in a senior year that holds much promise.
In fact, UTSA defensive coordinator Neal Neathery said Singletary still can improve as a player.
"He came into Baylor as a [rover] safety and then played linebacker," Neathery said. "He had only one spring on the D-line when he came to us. So, his development is just getting started."
Singletary said it was "a great honor" to be nominated for the Lombardi.
He said he was humbled to learn that he had made the list along with Inskeep.
Asked about his journey in college football, he smiled.
"You see it out here," Singletary said. "We have a brand-new [practice] field. We have new locker rooms, new weight room.
"Just the growth that we have [had] since I have been here has been crazy."
Cody Harris, Scott Inskeep, Robert Singletary and Triston Wade all land on first team, while Nate Leonard, Ashaad... http://t.co/ho7ayQZaol— UTSA Football (@UTSAFTBL) June 18, 2014
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