By JW Wilson
TCU defensive lineman 1995-99
Today is Sunday. One more sleep until our Cinderella story reaches its conclusion.
While the sports world may believe we don’t stand a chance, they also root for us. TCU has been the perpetual underdog, a role to which we have grown accustomed and a role we embrace. The sports world still loves cheering for the underdog.
So, here we are. All we ever wanted was a seat at the table. A chance to prove ourselves to our peers. Monday night that dream is realized.
Make no mistake, we aren’t interested in moral victories. We have come, convicted, to get that Natty. You can bet your last dollar, and some have, that we won’t stop fighting until the season’s last whistle blows.
If hell freezes over in LA, then, well, you know the rest. Lives will be forever changed for some.
You see, there is nothing else in life that mimics the galvanizing power of sports. Tears for those who never cry. I’ve seen it. Sports allow fans a front-row seat into life’s most exciting journey of our band of brothers and sisters. In a country founded on principles of freedom, hard work and competition, to name a few, sports give us magnificent competition. A chance to show who you are through competition. The world needs winners. Winners excite us, motivate us, empower us, inspire us, unite us, give us hope. They give us happiness and joy.
TCU, a blossomed “little” university just off the banks of the Trinity River, finds itself thrust into the national spotlight with the eyes, judgments, opinions, hopes and dreams of so many. It finds itself uncomfortably on the biggest stage. A dream come true for anyone lucky enough to don the purple. The university is now a common guest at the sports nation’s dinner table.
A dream, yes, but recent history shows we have been no stranger to this dance floor. Cinderella has always been cornered on the dance floor by those full-figured blue bloods, but ever so often you can catch her peeking out to see that scrappy gentleman in the purple jacket. He keeps showing up uninvited and, boy, does Cinderella love her some purple.
There was that red-headed kid and bulletproof buddies who showed up in Pasadena carrying roses. Hard to forget the 31-0 halftime deficit and the unimaginable comeback that still baffles people and Ducks. The Peach Bowl may have featured TCU’s great team and thus thrashed a really good Ole Miss squad. The Sun Bowl, where TCU’s modern era began, still holds its weight.
There was that Fiesta Bowl team, make that two teams. Many more caught Cinderella’s gaze. No disrespect to the ’35 and ’38 teams, which stand forevermore on TCU’s Mount Rushmore. Hope those guys are proud of these teams. TCU has given us plenty of dance-floor winks, which we have loved and cherished.
Nothing we have has come easy. It’s not supposed to, right? Our success speaks to this. There have been some tough days, tough losses, some heart-wrenching firings, off-the-field incidents, some questionable decisions, and some crushing deaths. Adversity finds us all.
The death of coaches Jim Wacker and Pat Sullivan, the sideline death of Jim Pittman, greats Jim Swink, Davey O’Brien, Sammy Baugh, Kent Waldrep, Tommy Joe Crutcher. The tragic deaths of Jeff Gladney, Jamal Powell, Chris Piland, Marcus Anderson, Josh Harbuck, Fred Washington and coach Jim Bob Helduser. And the man who told the stories, Dan Jenkins.
Beloved Frogs, some gone too soon and more than listed above. Their lives and memories live on forever in Horned Frog lore. They will be there Monday night with the rest of us. This moment has their fingerprints embedded deep within. You’ve heard Coach Dykes, Max, Quentin and a few others speak to this. The people who have come before them helped lay the groundwork for this fairy tale come true.
To those who have come before you, we salute you. To this team, our Horned Frog Nation salutes you.
You have done everything that was asked and needed to earn that seat at Monday’s table. You overcame adversity, you won when you weren’t supposed to, you found luck when it popped up, you punished those who traditionally did the punishing, you fought back when most had doubts. You Frogs did it all in ways we still can’t believe.
Best of all, you did it the best way possible, the Horned Frog Way, with class. You guys showed the world that good guys can win. People can be kind, generous, compassionate, vulnerable, classy, and still kick someone’s ass!
We count the minutes leading to Monday night. Fans flock to LA, smiling nervously, donned in purple, trying to keep it together to support a team that carries the weight of the world on its back, and all the while acting like they’ve been dating Cinderella since middle school.
You exceptional men have already won. You have proven to us that dreams are worth chasing. You have shown us that there is no substitute for hard work. You have proven to us that doing things the right way matters, and our kids have noticed. You have shown us what winners look like. You have shown us what is possible in a world not always interested in positivity. There is a place for good in this world. Always will be, and it looks like these TCU Horned Frogs.
For these things, the years prior, the years to come, the fun we’ve had watching you, loving you … thank you!
For the memories, thick as smoke, thank you!
For the tireless work to make us all better people, thank you!
For the hope for the future we deserve from these young men, thank you!
For making us proud, thank you!
Now, go get that Natty!