Tulsa started from the bottom, and it’s still there.

Last summer, the American Athletic Conference preseason media poll projected the Golden Hurricane to finish last in the west division. TU made the prediction come true after a 3-9 season, posting a 2-6 conference record. Because of last year’s performance, the AAC preseason media poll, which was released during the AAC Media Kickoff on July 16, projects TU to finish at the bottom again for the third straight season.

“Does it sting? Yes,” TU coach Philip Montgomery said. “But every year we’ve been here we’ve been picked pretty low. It’s kinda expected now, and we understand that the only way we’re gonna gain respect is to earn it. The way you do that is in-between the white lines and getting W’s.”

Montgomery isn’t the only one in the Golden Hurricane’s locker room that saw the poll and has noticed the trend. He knows his players are well aware of the situation. Linebacker Cooper Edmiston was representing the Golden Hurricane in Newport, Rhode Island, when the preseason poll was released at AAC media days.

“Whenever you’re doubted you always want to prove them wrong, but at the same time, I mean, that’s kind of where I expected to be,” Edmiston said. “Why else would we be picked any higher than that? It definitely gets you motivated to just go prove everybody wrong.”

The result of the predictions was a new motto for TU. Last season, Montgomery stressed the importance of small details to his team, and although he said that will still be an emphasis, the Golden Hurricane are focused on “Earning it” this season.

“Kind of our focus has been since January is about earning it,” Montgomery said. “That’s what we’ve placed on shirts, that’s what we’ve placed on bracelets. You gotta earn every day. You gotta earn the right to step between the white lines, and then you gotta earn respect.”

Between the shirts, bracelets and Montgomery’s preaching, the “earning it” mantra has been instilled into the TU players.

“The ‘Earn it’ mentality is, ‘Don’t expect nothing to be given to you,’” receiver Keenen Johnson said. “That’s the main thing. Don’t expect anyone to go easy on you — not the opponent, not your own teammate. It’s just having that blue-collar work mentality is what (Montgomery) means by it.”

TU can start “earning it” Aug. 30 in its season opener against Michigan State in East Lansing, Michigan.

“That’s what our program is fighting for,” Montgomery said. “Every day we’re trying to earn what we get, just like all of us do. You gotta show up for work and make that day happen.”

Dekota Gregory

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