As football season begins Saturday, Red Raider fans across the nation anxiously wait for the first ride of the season. The crowd roars “Raider Power,” the Goin’ Band from Raiderland plays the fight song and the rifles shoot, signaling the official start of Red Raider football.
One of those fans excited for that first ride of the season is Mackenzie White, this year’s Masked Rider.
White and horse Fearless Champion will make their debut Saturday at Jones AT&T Stadium for the Texas Tech-Central Arkansas game.
“I’m excited and nervous all at the same time,” she said. “I’ve heard from past riders that there’s nothing like it in the world. It’s completely inexplicable.”
The Masked Rider tradition debuted in 1954 at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., after Texas Tech football coach DeWitt Weaver thought the team needed a mascot. When the late Joe Kirk Fulton and his horse made their bold appearance that New Year’s Day, Red Raider fans stood stunned in disbelief of the magnificent entrance. After that game, the Masked Rider was ingrained as a Texas Tech tradition.
“The Masked Rider has become one of the most recognizable mascots in the country,” said Stephanie Rhode, Spirit Program director. “I think it's important that we gather together and pay homage to the men and women who built this tradition which, started as a student dare and has evolved into the majestic and iconic symbol of Texas Tech University.”
White, a junior from Marble Falls, grew up around horses her whole life. Her love for Texas Tech and horses helped foster her goal to become the Masked Rider. She is now proud to be an ambassador for the university.
“My goal as this year’s Masked Rider is to do my best representing Texas Tech,” White said. “When fans come up to me and Fearless Champion, I want them to have a memorable experience. I want Texas Tech alums to feel proud of their university, knowing that it still stands for the same honor and integrity it did while they were in school.”
Serving as the 53rd Masked Rider, White looks forward to the 60th anniversary celebration. She says this year will be all about embracing the program, recognizing how it has evolved over the years and how loved the tradition still is today.
To celebrate the Masked Rider’s 60th anniversary, Texas Tech’s Spirit Program will host a celebration Sept. 13, inviting former riders to be recognized on the field at Jones AT&T Stadium before the Texas Tech-Arkansas game.
“This year is a special year,” White said. “I’m so proud to be a part of this tradition, and I look forward to what’s in store for this year.”
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