by Amber Sutherland, UTSA Athletics Communications
Growing up in the shadows of the UTSA Main Campus, senior tight end and Brandeis High School product Oscar Cardenas has had the unique opportunity to not only play football at the highest level but also be able to study and have the college experience close to home.
"It is nice having my family and friends I grew up with here, and their ability to go to all home games for sure,” Cardenas shared.
As it turns out, family and community bonds had much more bearing on Cardenas choosing UTSA than merely the obvious benefits of proximity.
"Being close to family is great,” Cardenas revealed. “There is just such a support system here in San Antonio and at UTSA. Just the community here feels like home."
Cardenas reflects on the changes he has experienced now playing his fourth season under head coach Jeff Traylor. A key transformation he saw emphasized was the shift in culture.
“The culture Coach Traylor has brought into this program is everything. It's honestly everything for this football team, and for all the players on the team to buy into the culture, understanding and admiring it, is huge."
Cardenas firmly believes in the coaching staff's commitment to not only develop successful athletes but great human beings.
When discussing his favorite aspect of playing for UTSA, Cardenas highlighted the offensive opportunities that have allowed him to thrive while playing a position that sometimes goes underutilized in many offenses across the country. An honorable mention All-Conference USA selection as a junior in 2022, he’s encroaching on a major milestone as he’s reached 870 receiving yards on just 67 receptions for his career and is currently averaging 21.9 yards per catch this season.
"The things that I do on the field are because of the offense we have on the team,” Cardenas explained. “I just feel like my ability to play this game is perfect for this offense and I thank my coaches and teammates for that."
As Cardenas weighs the options for his future, he remains rooted in San Antonio.
"I could have another season for my COVID year. Coach Traylor says he's going to try to get me to come back," he said.
However, he also revealed his post-football aspirations. Cardenas comes from a family of educators and coaches, and he is determined to carry on that legacy by mentoring and guiding the next generation.
The heart of a true athlete beats for competition, and Cardenas is no exception. You can hear it when he describes his love for the game.
"It's a test and it's competing, every Saturday. It's pretty much a test that I'm taking to see if I know what I'm doing and I love what I get to do for this team."
Cardenas is a leader in his play and also within the program. As a single-digit jersey recipient, he is entrusted with guiding his teammates. He shared his approach to leadership.
"To be a single-digit (player) and to represent the Triangle of Toughness that we have and that we brand ourselves with, for my teammates to pick me for that, it's an honor."
Cardenas emphasized that leadership isn't limited to verbal communication and that effective guidance comes in various forms, including mentorship and one-on-one guidance.
As this season continues, Cardenas is focused on the goal of winning another championship and making UTSA a force in the American Athletic Conference. He looks forward to each game, cherishing the moments of freedom on the field.