Duane Akina getting emotional is not a new occurrence in Austin. Watch any Texas game over the past 13 years and see an assistant coach in burnt orange screaming his head off, it was probably defensive backs coach Duane Akina.
Akina carved out his own legacy within the Mack Brown era. With 13 NFL players in 13 years - including Thorpe Award winners Michael Huff and Aaron Ross, and first-round picks like Quentin Jammer, Michael Griffin, Earl Thomas and Kenny Vaccaro, Akina taught Texas to think of itself as DB U.
DB U shut its doors this week, as incoming head coach Charlie Strong parted ways with Texas' long-time defensive backs coach. It's a move that, painful as it is, makes sense for both parties.
"We've had such a great run. We've had so many great players back there, you know? But what's made it really special is all those great players were really, really good guys," Akina says, then pauses to gather himself. "And I think that's really the thing I'll miss the most, is those relationships I build with those guys. I coach my guys hard but I love them hard, too."
Walking the floor at the AFCA Convention, you're reminded over and over that coaching, more than anything else, is about building relationships. Strange as it is, Akina's departure is a reminder of the good things about coaching college football.
"Just a guy that was really passionate about his work, that loved his players, coached them hard, was hard but fair, honest," Akina said on how he'd like to be remembered. "You knew where I stood every time. I used to tell them whatever's on that film, whatever's on that canvas, I'm part of. Any good, any bad, I'm in that game with them. If we didn't perform well on that field, I was a major part of that, too. Hopefully they just feel like (I) was totally in with them in whatever they did, and really loved them and respected all the players that came through here."