Red Raider Reunion

Rodney Allison and the Double T Varsity Club graciously allowed to crash the former lettermen post spring game tailgate Saturday afternoon with the likes of the coach himself, Spike Dykes, and past Tech greats of the gridiron.

The beer flowed, the sun shone, and the memories lasted longer than the food did.

Texas Tech's Double T Varsity Club – who also organized a golf tournament on Friday – took the extra mile to bring some old Tech icons home.

Former Texas Tech star Rodney Allison, who quarterbacked the Red Raiders through the turbulent 1970s, is the current leader of the Double T Varsity Club, tasked with reuniting fellow exes with their athletic program. A who's-who of Texas Tech football players congregated at his postgame tailgate, where tortillas where served with assorted meats and sausage.

As diverse as the meat-based products were, so were the stories from the Tech legends.

Matt Wingo, a member of Spike Dykes' first recruiting class in 1987, played three seasons for Tech and was an All-American in his Red Raider career; he joked that he "could step back on the field any day now". Wingo's Red Raider team in 1989 successfully beat a Steve Spurrier-led Duke Blue Devils squad in the All-American Bowl.

Timmy Smith, on the other hand, only played two full seasons of college football in 1982 and 1983. He was drafted by the Washington Redskins in 1986 and briefly played in the NFL – considered a "one-shot wonder" for his performance in Super Bowl XXII, scoring two touchdowns off 204 rushing yards. He now works in the oil industry in Colorado, doing work from his native New Mexico, and says that he "loves it". Smith has been closely following the program, especially under Kliff Kingsbury, and that the union between alumni and the current program "is gonna help recruiting…it should've been done."

An hour-long banter emerged from lifelong friends and Border Conference-era Red Raiders Ronnie Herr, Claude Harland and Don Schmidt. The stories – true or untrue, appropriate or not – kept the audience in stitches.

For example: "He got cut from the (L.A.) Rams [in 1955] on the last cut…because he wasn't as fast as me," said Herr. "They called me and asked how fast he was, and I said, ‘A slowpoke.'" Schmidt's son, Don Jr., played at the University of Texas in 1979 and 1980. He recalls his first football game because "this old man on the sidelines told me, ‘We still remember your daddy!'"

Herr said, "There were old cards (from a Lubbock-area car dealership), and it said ‘All-Border Conference, Top Returning Man in 1954, or 1955 or something like that…then I separated my shoulder the next year! I was drafted by the Chicago Cardinals (in 1956), but I didn't go there."

Ryan Aycock, who played safety under Mike Leach in the early 2000s, recalled the sheer depth of the former Red Raider coach's staff:
"We had Dana Holgorsen who's at West Virginia; Sonny Dykes who's at Cal; Ruffin McNeill at East Carolina…obviously, Kliff who coaches here…[Art] Briles at Baylor. These were some of the best guys to work under."

Aycock said Kliff Kingsbury "always took care of his business…don't get me wrong, he played too – it's what you gotta do in college – but he took care of his grades and his on-field stuff."

When asked about his biggest game as a Red Raider, Aycock mentioned the 2002 game against Texas – which Tech won – and he had a key interception to seal the game with five minutes left. "I probably got [the newspaper headline from that day] framed twice," he said.

The biggest star at Allison's tailgate – other than Allison himself – was Spike Dykes, the head coach at Tech from 1986 to 1999.

"They never did anything but do me proud," he said. "And that's the best thing you can do for anyone, make them proud."

He credited the administration for promoting football on a slow-growth plan.

"It's been a great, steady process…a lot of donors made this possible. John Montford was the chancellor during my time here. And that's what happens when you don't try to do everything at the same time, and now [Jones AT&T Stadium] is the most beautiful stadium in America."

Dykes spoke at length about the Southwest Conference and its state when it dissolved in 1996.

"We had two schools, Rice and Houston, in the same town with a pro football team, and they weren't drawing well. We had SMU and TCU, same case. [Texas Tech] got into the Big 12, and thank goodness we were included. The credit really goes to T. Jones, who was the athletic director, and he really put in hours of legwork to get it done."

"Texas Tech is special," said Dykes, "and what makes it special is the kids that go to school here…Kids that come here and visit love it, so if you're lucky enough to come visit, you'll love it."

Most importantly, all of the alumni said the same thing: they appreciated the reunion. Smith's statement that events like those would help recruiting is true, as it illustrated the camaraderie between ex-players and coaches from all eras: from Herr and Schmidt's bumblin', rumblin' days in pre-SWC Raiderland, to Aycock and Kingsbury's high-flying times with Mike Leach in the Big 12.

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