It's been an interesting 11 years around Texas Tech football to say the least.
For me, that's the exact amount of time I've spent following the team as a student and sports writer. So maybe its only proper that I say goodbye to RaiderPower.com and enter the world of Texas Tech athletics on a game that bring to end an era of a fun rivalry and plenty of memories for me personally.
Like a lot of people my age growing up in Arlington, Texas, we had a melting pot of college football teams we all considered ourselves to be fans of. Most of my friends wore the maroon and burnt orange and tried to suck me into the same. There was a point where I followed Texas A&M football closely, since the Aggies were always on TV in the DFW Metroplex and played in consecutive Cotton Bowls against Florida State and Notre Dame while I was younger.
But it was a game in 1995 that shifted my college football pride forever and may have been the ultimate shift in the Texas Tech – Texas A&M rivalry as well.
Both my parents were Red Raiders as well as a number of cousins, aunts and uncles. But a family down the street who was also originally from El Paso like my parents, brought about a fun rivalry of Tech vs. A&M. They were Aggies through and through. There wasn't a hint of any color except maroon and white come Saturday. So I did what I needed to and stuck to my family ties.
Two hours later, as I watched Zach Thomas pick off Corey Pullig and dash into the end zone at The Jones to beat A&M, I was hooked … I mean fired up with my guns blazing. I was a Red Raider from there on.
Five years later on a visit to Lubbock for the first time in the summer before my senior year of high school, I walked across campus and bumped into a good friend who was a year older than me and was there studying for the summer. After and afternoon on the campus and talking to him, my mind was set on coming to Tech after high school.
Once again it was a game against A&M my freshman year in 2001 that captured how much this rivalry meant to anyone that's ever worn scarlet, black or maroon.
Yes, that game.
This is the 10th anniversary of the now infamous "Goal Post Game" in which Tech beat then No. 24 A&M, 12-0. I rushed the field with everyone else, helping tear down the south end zone goal posts and held on for dear life as we marched down the field. I wasn't sure where we were going but when I finally spun around to look, all I saw was maroon in the stands.
"This can't be good," I thought.
Well it wasn't and the rest is as they say, "history." The goal posts went into the A&M section, Dr. Mike McKinley, Aggie loyal and chief of staff for Gov. Rick Perry, was punched and accused a Red Raider of the foul, only to discover by film and photos later on that it was a typical A&M fan mistake and whiff of a punch toward the Red Raider that caught McKinley in the face.
The next season was my first trip to Aggieland as a Tech student. I went to a game with a friend and his older brother while I was in high school, watching Dat Nguyen and A&M beat Iowa State handedly. But this was much different. The taunts came out, the dirty looks were all there and anyone wearing maroon just had a formed opinion about you before you could even say anything. And they didn't even know I was hanging on the goal post the year before, but probably thought I threw a punch just like anyone else.
So needless to say on that 110-degree day, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Wes Welker sprint pass Aggie defenders into the end zone on that punt return. And isn't it fitting that after an errant Aggie fan punch landed A&M in the headlines the year before, two errant extra point attempts would do the same and help Tech seal the 48-47 win – a game not even broadcasted.
Watching B.J. Symons dismantle A&M the following season was a joy, and only a lucky play in overtime beat Sonny Cumbie and company the next season. But it was two years later at a game in College Station that was my most memorable moment of all.
I was a young sports writer covering my first Tech-A&M game for The Daily Toreador newspaper, getting access to parts of Kyle Field that I did not even know existed. Along with my friends Joey Kirk and Stephen Monahan, who were also on staff with me at the time, this was one of the ultimate games to cover.
I still remember standing in the press box in what felt like it was miles above the field as the Aggie fans began to sing and sway … then the press box did the same movement. I remember saying to another writer, "Are they making this thing move?"
"Yup," he replied quickly. "Just wait until after the game when you walk on the field."
And he was right.
You get access to the field for the last eight minutes of the game. You go down an elevator below ground level and walk underneath the stadium through some storage rooms before coming out of a walkway tunnel that emerges beneath the fans at the 50-yard line behind the Aggies bench. It was an incredible sight.
So minutes later Todd Dodge's thought-to-be-interception had the governor jumping up and down behind me, thinking the Aggies had just sealed the win. But replay proved different and I ran down the sideline to get near the end zone for what could be a last-ditch effort should Graham Harrell throw that way.
"He'll throw to Johnson," I told Stephen. "He's got to."
Staying objective, I watched closely. The snap went back, Shannon Woods made an incredible block, and Harrell released a perfect throw to the corner – a ball I thought was coming right at me, but landed right in Robert Johnson's arms past the stretched limbs of Jordan Peterson for the game-winning score.
All I could do was look at Stephen as we both said, "Oh my God!" and tried to remain calm and write down the notes on our pad. I was shaking so bad that I could not spell a single word correctly. It was unbelievable.
I just happened to glance back at the governor, who looked like he just watched his best friend die.
A great shot by Norvelle Kennedy captured me and my wide-open mouth on the sidelines when Johnson catches the ball. I'm so happy to have that picture and memory.
So now I go out into Jones AT&T Stadium today as a new Texas Tech athletics employee, hoping to make great impressions as the new multimedia director for the department.
Why not have a memorable win against the Aggies today to make it a proper start.
Texas Tech 38, Texas A&M 31.