One of the perks of writing on Viva The Matadors is that I get to meet a lot of terrific people. One of those neat people is J Frederick, a former football player for Spike Dykes and Texas Tech. J doesn't want any credit, but he deserves it. From what I can tell, he essentially created and organized the Spike Dykes Charity Golf Tournament and it is doing something that helps other people. J likes to give credit to a lot of people, but I think that he probably deserves the most.
Last year, which was the first year of the tournament, J emailed me and asked if I would help publicize the event. I'm pretty hesitant about things like this. I've told this before, but my grandmother had recently passed away and my dad and his siblings dealt with her Alzheimer's and dementia. This was something where I thought that I could help and it was important to me.
This is also one of those weird things where I never really have any idea if I'm really helping at all. I have never really been able to gauge how much impact this site actually has. I know how many people visit each day, but that's all I know. Not only that, it is hard for me to give money. Previously, I was saving like a mad-man for the last adoption and I'm saving for adoption #2 right now (more details on that later). But what I can give is time. Page views. Eyeballs.
Last year I was able to promote the event and had the opportunity to email back and forth with some former players. The one thing that we had to be careful about was the situation with Tuberville. Without getting into details, I think that everyone was walking on eggshells, especially me. I think I initially asked a question about the current team and the initial and some of edited responses were really honest.
As bad as the football season was the year before, I didn't want to take anything away from what this tournament was really about. I hate editing the honest thoughts of people and I of course didn't do anything without permission of that person, but there was real frustration with the state of the program that you all didn't get to see.
This year, J emailed me again and asked if I could help and I said sure.
So I do what I think I am good at and I write. J asks me if I would be able to play golf and come to the dinner on Saturday night. I respond that the offer is incredible, but the wife and I are getting back into saving mode for the second adoption, plus I tell him that I hate golf. I think I may be one of the few attorneys that is willing to admit that, but it is true. J offers to hang out with him on Saturday during the tournament and then to just come to the dinner. (As an aside, I didn't get to go on Saturday for the golf tournament because I spent the day helping a friend move. This friend has helped me move twice and helped paint my house. I also did not get to go to the dinner on Saturday night. My wife and I drove there - it took two hours because of traffic - showed up an she just wasn't feeling well. As much as I wanted to be there, I wasn't going to make her stay if she felt bad so we left. She's good now, but had some muscle spasms that were a real pain.)
How can I not accept?
Then, a couple of weeks before the tournament, J invites me to the Friday night gathering, where those who are playing in the tournament are getting together to generally hangout. Of course.
Fast forward to this past Friday night and my brother-in-law, Justin, also a Red Raider, and I make the trek.
Neither myself nor Justin are that out-going so we settle in grab a few beers and simply people watch. Not only that, but the players and coaches that were in attendance were and are friends. Good friends. It was like being at a high school reunion where neither you nor your spouse attended that high school. I didn't care, it was interesting to watch, for sure. Talking. Joking. Laughing. Of course, a lot of these guys saw each other last year, but you could tell that there was some serious catching up. Justin and I decided that this was a situation best to let those that know each other interact and just be a fly on the wall.
There were two footballs being floated around to be signed by former players. One of the folks helping run the event asked myself and Justin if we needed to sign. We informed this person that we would devalue the football if we signed them.
J is just as nice in person as he is by email. It was a pleasure meeting him. He could not have helped us feel more welcome.
J introduced me to Rodney Allison and that was really great. For those of you who are young (and this includes me), Allison was a terrific quarterback for Texas Tech before Texas Tech was a passing team, from 1971 through 1975. He asked to get in a picture with me, J and Rodney's wife.
Prior to last night, I did not realize the importance of what Rodney was doing and the distinction between the Red Raider Club and the Double-T Varsity Club. The Red Raider Club is there for the benefit of the current student-athletes in all sports. The Double-T Varsity Club is the lettermen's association, essentially for all former athletes. This lettermen's association has been dormant for years and there's been nothing that's happened on this front for years.
I asked who was behind this movement and there really shouldn't be any surprise as to the answer.
You see a problem and you fix it. Someone there had mentioned that this had been a problem before Mack Brown arrived at Texas and he re-introduced the Texas T-Association. Hocutt is doing the same thing here. Hopefully, with the guidance of Allison, that this will be something for all lettermen (and letterwomen) and a place where these types of reunions can happen on a more frequent basis.
Speaking of Kirby, you should not be surprised in talking to former players about the job that they think Kirby is doing. Just like you and I, the players that I did talk to love the idea of hiring former players and coaches. People that want to be at your university and are not looking to leave as soon a possible. People with an investment in the university and know what it means to be from West Texas. Overall, the former players I spoke to just couldn't say enough nice things about Kirby.
The thing that I keep thinking about is that I have no idea how long Kirby will stay at Texas Tech. I hope it is a long time. But he is leaving the athletics department in better shape than when he found it. That's the most you can ask of someone in doing their job. Leave it better than when you found it.
The question was also asked about the Tuberville reign and if it was as frustrating for them as it was fans. The former players suffer as much as the fans do, maybe more because they were inside that program for such a long period of time and take a tremendous amount of pride about their university. We all do, but I can understand how it is a different feeling for them. Maybe the best way to put it is that the former players have some ownership in the whole thing and it wasn't being run the way they wanted to see it run. I can appreciate that. I think as fans it is hard to put themselves in the shoes of a former player and vice versa. It would be easy to say that there was a lot of suffering the past two years on both sides.
I know that I won't remember every person in attendance. Mostly because I didn't know who everyone was. Spike Dykes, Sonny Dykes, Rick Dykes, Rodney Allison, Tyrone Thurman, Sonny Cumbie, Trey Haverty, Kliff Kingsbury, Rodney Blackshear, Gerald Myers, Kirby Hocutt, Dave Parks, Jennie Bailey, and Bam Morris to name a few.
A couple of quick-hits:
- Kingsbury was there. He was catching up with folks just like everyone else. He was wearing a long sleeve henley shirt. Third button unbuttoned.
- Dave Parks is really out-going and I don't think I recall one instance where he wasn't laughing or smiling. J said that he got lost on 121.
- Bam Morris has had his issues off the field, but he is a very popular guy amongst his teammates and former coaches.
- I am taller than Tyrone Thurman and I don't get to say that very often about another person. Thurman is apparently a horrible golfer, but a very popular with his teammates and coaches as well. Thurman was a Bob Hope All-American too.
- Jennie Bailey was there and all of the press about how the former players absolutely adore her is 100% true.
And I haven't even talked about the man of the hour. Coach Dykes. Actually, Sonny was there too, so there were two Coach Dykes in attendance. Spike floated around the room and smiled the entire night. I really was honored to just be there in attendance and Spike added to that aura. It must be an incredibly awesome feeling that his presence can bring together so many different parts of the Red Raider family and help a cause that is incredibly important to him.
It was really interesting seeing the whole thing. They were normal people catching up. I know that we, as fans, tend to romanticize players, former and current, and the truth of the matter is that they are just like us in a lot of respects. They make mistakes off the field, they get lost, they have families, they are shorter than me.
Thanks again to J and if you ever wanted to give to a good cause, where the money stays in Texas for research to cure Alzheimers, then this is a good place to start.