For me, a Red Raider football home game does not start with opening kickoff. It starts with the Masked Rider and his/her trusty steed galloping onto the field with the team in tow. The tradition of the Masked Rider is one of the, if not the, most revered tradition in Tech athletics.
While the beginnings of the Masked Rider stretch back as far as the 1936 football season, it was not until the 1954 New Year’s Day Gator Bowl that the Masked Rider exploded on the college football scene. On the day, the Masked Rider became the first official mascot of Texas Tech University. The horse, Blackie, was ridden by the inaugural Masked Rider, Joe Kirk Fulton (with a black cape, red shirt, and bolero on), and led the football team onto the field against the Auburn Tigers. In what was the first Tech football game broadcast by television, an Atlanta Constitution writer, Ed Danforth, said, "No team in any bowl game ever made a more sensational entrance." The Masked Rider was a good-luck charm for that Tech team, as they won the Gator Bowl 35-13 and finished the season as the #12 ranked team in the nation.
Since then, the Masked Rider and his trusted steed have sent excitement barreling through each and every Tech fan at the beginning of home games. The Masked Rider has appeared at more than just football games too! He/She appears at all of the Red Raider home athletic events. (Although, sometimes he/she has to leave his horse behind.) When allowed, the Masked Rider attends away game and shows off one the traditions of Texas Tech, to those who never attended.
The Masked Rider is not just loved by Tech fans. In 2006, College Football News named the Masked Rider one of the top 25 mascots in college sports. Other college athletic programs have even adopted their own version of a mounted mascot, most notable Florida State and Oklahoma State. When a tradition is this good, you’re bound to have some programs want to get in on the action.
Since it’s inception, over 40 young men and women have donned on the Masked Rider identity and have been carried by 14 of the finest horses to walk West Texas. The Masked Rider has brought countless smiles from Red Raider fans, young and old. To rephrase part of the fight song, long live the Masked Rider!
What do you like best of the Masked Rider? Was taking a family picture, seeing him/her gallop onto the field for the first time, or maybe just the memories it brings back from your days at Texas Tech? Either comment below or tweet me @ConnerCrisp. Guns Up!