UTSA standout Makai Hart aims for rebound in final year after losing 2022 season to injury

Aug. 4, 2023
Entering 2022 as UTSA’s starting right tackle for a third straight season, Makai Hart envisioned riding through a final year with the Roadrunners and then shifting to the next stage of his life, exiting the program alongside fellow multiyear starters Ahofitu Maka and Kevin Davis.
For Maka and Davis, the season went to script. They both started every game of UTSA’s 11-3 run, capping their careers with a second straight Conference USA championship.
Hart’s path, however, was derailed. He played just six snaps in UTSA’s opener against Houston before suffering a knee injury, and when he returned to the field five weeks later against Western Kentucky, he was unable to finish the game before enduring a season-ending injury to the opposite knee.
Six years after starting his college football career at the first of two junior college stops, Hart returns to UTSA for a final season of eligibility in 2023, standing as one of the anchors on the Roadrunners’ offensive line as he aims to rebound from last year’s setback.
“I was in a pretty bad spot, honestly,” Hart said. “I was supposed to graduate and go out with my dudes. … But I’m blessed to be able to come back and get another shot at it. All I can do is just go and do my best.”
Hart’s injury was perhaps the most significant blow to an offensive tackle rotation that was in flux through the season. He entered the year as one of UTSA’s five selections to the Conference USA preseason watch list, expected to build from his recognition as an all-league second-team selection in 2020 and his honorable mention spot in 2021.
Born Jan. 4, 1999, the 24-year-old Hart is the oldest player on the team — even older than quarterback Frank Harris by three months. He completed a degree in multidisciplinary studies in May 2022 and has two children, a 4-year-old daughter and a 1-year-old son. Though he once felt ready to turn the page, the prospect of sticking around for a final college season was too enticing to pass up.
“I was coming back. I was thinking about if I don't come back, when I’m 40, (saying), ‘You could've played that year,’” Hart said. “I wasn’t about to have that regret.”
As the Roadrunners opened preseason practices this week, Hart’s primary focuses were “staying healthy and really just being a professional off the field,” he said, focusing on injury maintenance and keeping a healthy diet and sleep schedule.
Coach Jeff Traylor said the Roadrunners “really monitor our big guys who have played a ton of football,” limiting practice repetitions for stalwarts like Hart who have little to prove.
Though Hart said he feels 100 percent healthy, he acknowledged the reasons to “pull back a little bit,” shifting focus toward a more active role coaching his younger teammates.
"He’s been really good. He’s a veteran. He’s a wonderful human,” Traylor said. “Last year was very frustrating for him. He’s done a great job of taking care of his body. He’s a really good football player. Great dad, a great family man. He’s a really good dude.”
When Hart went down with the injury against Houston, he said his mind went blank. He began to think back on his career, but he also kept hope the injury would not be too severe.
Pushing for a quick return, Hart said he was 100 percent when he stepped on the field against Western Kentucky, feeling the second injury to his other knee was in no way connected.
“It’s tough for anybody. Any injury you’re ever going to have, it takes a mental toll on you,” Hart said. “I have a great support system, and they picked me back up and got me out of that dark spot. All I can do is go, now. I can’t look at the past.”
As UTSA jumps to the American Athletic Conference this season, Hart’s goals are similar to many of the other Roadrunners, with the group aiming for a third straight conference championship in a new league.
He also shares the mission of guiding UTSA to the program’s first bowl victory, starting in losing efforts during the 2020 and 2021 season before being relegated to watching last year’s Cure Bowl setback against Troy.
“My goals are not really personal goals,” Hart said. “I just want to be the best leader I can with the young dudes and show them the ropes and everything. I just want to win with the team. Just want to win a championship again. I really want to win a damn bowl game.”

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