Head coach Mike Leach and the 7th ranked Texas Tech football team took time out of their busy AT&T Cotton Bowl schedule Tuesday afternoon to go and spread some cheer to the children of Children's Medical Center.
The Red Raiders were greeted by approximately 20 children and several staff members of the hospital, along with past AT&T Cotton Bowl chairman John Stuart and wife Barbara. Coach Leach and the team spent an hour visiting with patients inside the Moore Auditorium making arts and crafts with them, while another 30 children were honored with visits by the seniors of the squad in their own room. The activities inside the auditorium included decorating sugar cookies with black and red icing, coloring sheets of paper that had the Texas Tech logo on it, and autographing a big banner that read We Love Texas Tech.
Each child received Dr Pepper/Snapple group gift bags filled with t-shirts provided by Dr Pepper, AT&T Cotton Bowl wrist band and poster, and a Texas Tech logo lighter. Children's Medical Center also provided gifts, giving each player a Children's Medical Center cap, while Sharpie donated the markers which were used by the athletes to autograph the hats.
Children's President & CEO Chris Durovich greeted the team and Coach Leach, thanking them for taking time and visiting the children, while Leach proceeded, saying a few words of thanks and then leading his team to a "guns up."
"We are excited to be here and it is a real honor for us to have the opportunity and experience these brave boys and s," stated Coach Leach. "It's a great opportunity for us to come and tell these kids to push on through and do the best they can and that we are very proud of them."
First-team All American Graham Harrell had a great time, making rounds visiting the craft tables, talking to the children and encouraging them to keep fighting.
"To have a chance and come over here and give back to the kids is awesome," stated the Johnny Unitas award winner. "These are strong kids and more than anything I just want to encourage them to keep fighting. They have been through a lot more than we have and I just want to let them know that they need to keep battling as well as let them know they are an inspiration to us."
Dallas, Texas, native Michael Crabtree felt honored that he had the opportunity to come home and spend time with the kids.
"It's a great thing to come out here and show the kids some love," said the two-time Biletnikoff Award winner. "Coming home and being part of all of this is exciting."
Inside receiver Eric Morris was very humbled to be part of such a great event that could bring him back to a bigger picture called life.
"It's very humbling for us to be here," stated Morris. "Sometimes we get caught up in winning football games and then you take a look at the big picture and see these kids struggling for their life and we're struggling to win football games. It's always nice to come and give back to kids like this who really look up to football players."
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR Ruffin McNeill
What are your impressions of Ole Miss' offense watching film?
The thing that jumps out is that you see a lot of different numbers when you watch. Before I learn names, I look at numbers. When I first started watching I saw a lot of different numbers at running back. They have a plethora of running backs. They do a good job of blending those guys in. Then you see (Dexter) McCluster, who you can list at a wide out or running back, at both positions. He is a great athlete and a great playmaker.
You first notice the offensive line and then (Jevan) Snead at quarterback is the operator of their offense. Then you see a plethora of skill positions at wide out with (Mike) Wallace and McCluster at the running back position. They represent a lot of problems. You just have to do a good job fundamentally with technique, because they are going to get the ball in their playmakers' hands.
What will it be like to participate in the last Cotton Bowl in historic Cotton Bowl Stadium?
It is a great traditional game. Nothing against any other bowl game, and we enjoy going to bowl games, my wife wants to come to this game more any other game because of the hospitality, it is in Dallas, the tradition of the Cotton Bowl. It is the 73rd Cotton Bowl and being the last one (in the Cotton Bowl), we feel honored to be here as a team.
We are excited. Our kids have been excited every day in practice. You always worry about `what do you think about this' or people try to make a lot out of `well you didn't get chosen for this.' Our kids are pumped. Mike (Leach) and I were talking today. I said `Boss, they are excited as anything and as any bowl game we have been to.' We are excited to be here.
What makes the "Wild Rebel" formation so successful? You put the ball in different athletes' hands. Ole Miss has those athletes to put the ball in their hands. Houston (Nutt) has run it in his time at Arkansas and he has brought it to Ole Miss. They do a good job at Ole Miss running it, just as the kids did at Arkansas.
It has mis-directions, passes off of it or runs. Ole Miss does a good job of doing that. You just have to make sure you do a good job of lining up and do your assignments, because if you don't they can hurt you.
With all the well-deserved reputation of the Texas Tech offense, how did you go about establishing an identity as a defensive unit?
The first thing I told our kids is that we don't deserve to be mentioned in the same breath of the offense until we become a consistent entity, until we show up year in and year out and week in and week out. Our offense has done that for nine years that Mike (Leach) has been here. Every year they have shown up and our kids realize that. Not that we don't think we are as good as our offense, but if we want to be put in the same breath as those guys, we need to be a consistent group year in and year out. That is what I feel. I told them that.
Secondly, when we took over, I wanted our kids to be an aggressive group. I wanted them to be a fundamentally sound group. I want them to be a group that plays with pride and believes in one another. And I wanted them to be a group that had a never say die attitude.
DE Jake Ratliff
What had been your experiences with the Cotton Bowl prior to this trip?
We came to the Cotton Bowl my freshman year. It is a great bowl. You always hear about it. It is a great place to be. It gets better every time I come here and ever hear about it. It is a great place. I love it here."
When did you start to feel like this could be a special season for this team?
It started after the Gator Bowl on the plane home. Everyone was already talking about this year and what we could accomplish. We knew we had all the parts. We just knew if we could put it all together it would be a great season for us."
What identity has this defense taken on this season?
Coach Ruff makes our identity for us. It is a simple defense. You just have to pin your ears back and go play football for him. He simplified this defense so much that is really all you have to do. You don't have to worry about a whole lot of assignments and stuff like that. You just go play football and go have fun."
Being a senior, what would it mean to go out with a win in the Cotton Bowl?
It would be a great win for us. It would be a great way for me to go out, especially as a senior. It would be the most wins in (Texas) Tech history and the first (Texas) Tech team to win a Cotton Bowl. It would be a great accomplishment."
SS Daniel Charbonnet
What impresses you most about Ole Miss?
"You just watch the film and you see how athletic they are. That is probably the most impressive thing. They have a lot of athletes. They have a lot of guys that have a lot of speed. They are physical. They do a really good job of what they do. They have that "Wild Rebel" and that is tough to stop. It is definitely going to be a challenge for us. We have to come out and really prepare well these next few days. We have to come out ready to play."
What are your emotions as you get ready to play your final collegiate game?
It is weird. It really hasn't hit me yet. Every time I think about it, you realize that you have to leave to it all out on the field and don't worry about the next play or the play before, just play the play you are in and try to enjoy it. You just try to enjoy every minute of it. It is the last time I am going to be around these guys. These are some of my best friends. It is just kind of weird. But it is exciting too. We want to finish this year on a good note, because it has been such a great year and we want to finish it strong."
Does Ole Miss remind you of a team that you have played this year? I can't really think of one team they are like, you see parts of different teams that we have played. They have as good of a quarterback as some we have played. We have been fortunate enough to play good quarterbacks almost every week in the Big 12, so that has prepared us. But he (Jevan Snead) is definitely one of the premier quarterbacks in the SEC. For the next few years he is going to be really dangerous. They have tons of speed. Their receivers are really fast. They have a few running backs, that No. 22 (Dexter McCluster), he is a blazer. They have some physical guys as well. They are just really well rounded and balanced. There have been a few teams we have played like that. They just do a really good job of running the ball well and throwing it when they need to. They protect their quarterback. It definitely will be a challenge for us. We have to come out ready to play. We have to prepare well."
LB Brian Duncan
What would it mean to cap off this special season with a win in the Cotton Bowl?
I give all this special season credit to my seniors. We are looking forward to letting these seniors go out with a bang. We did for their last home game. We are looking for one more game. I give glory to God for giving me another chance to play with them. But I give it all to them for capping off an awesome season. They have put in the work for a good four or five years. We are looking to top it off with a good one for them."
How would you describe the defensive unit?
We have already had an identity. Our identity was to swarm the defense being physical and aggressive. We finish plays. We lost that a couple of years. With the hunger and the heart these guys have, we brought it back. We are going to improve. Our defense is continually improving. We are going to improve until we make it to the top."
What are your memories of the win over Texas?
My memories of that game were actually of after the game. I knew we were going to win that game. But after the game the crowd started rushing the field and we had to get them off. I was sitting up there tackling fans and trying to get them off the field. That made the win even better. My memory is that of the fans coming out on the field and acting crazy. I had the opportunity to go and direct the band. I was up there directing the band. There are a lot of memories in that game.
FS Darcel McBath
What would a win in the Cotton Bowl mean to this team?
It would be great. You always want to go out on top. You never want to lose the last game. That is what we are preaching. The Cotton Bowl means a lot. This is the last time it will be played in this stadium. It means a lot to the whole Southwest Conference and Big 12. It is going to be a heck of a game.
What are your impresses you most about Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead?
His toughness. He is a tough guy. He will run it for 30 (yards) and a touchdown or he will throw it for 50 (yards) and a touchdown. He will do it all. Anything it takes to win, he does. That is the most impressive thing about him. He doesn't take a play off. They play hard every play.
What was the difference in the defense clicking this year?
I think it was just the leadership and the want to. We have guys that come out to practice and want to practice and win every game. We practice like that. We had great leadership and we played well. I think that is the main thing just having leaders and the want to.
Are you excited to play in the Cotton Bowl?
Playing in the Cotton Bowl is a big deal. We are excited. It is a great way to end my career. For the young guys it will be a great stage for them. It is a Jan. 2 bowl game and the young guys will be getting a lot of playing time. This will be good for everybody.
I've never been to a Cotton Bowl. I've wanted to go. I watched all of them on TV, every year. I never missed it. It is crazy that I am playing in it. It just feels good. I think when I step on that field and soak it all in we will be ready to go."
LB Bront Bird
Have you ever watched the Cotton Bowl previously?
I remember the last one (2005) against Alabama that came down to the final field goal. The fact that three Texas Tech teams have all come to the Cotton Bowl and never won, obviously we would like to change that this year.
We are just excited about this bowl. They are taking such great care of us. The hospitality they have shown us has been awesome. It is definitely a top-notch bowl. They take care of everyone.
What are your impressions of Ole Miss?
They have incredible athletes. They are from the SEC. They have got talent and speed at every position. What impresses me the most is definitely their offensive line. They are big and physical and strong guys that work well together as a unit. That allows Jevan Snead to have a lot of the success that he is having. Obviously he is a great quarterback, but their offensive line has really impressed me. I think everyone when we have been watching film on them they have allowed him time to make a lot of good throws.
How important is it to identify Ole Miss' playmakers as they line up in different formations?
It is important. Sometimes they line their running back at quarterback and things like that. The teams that have been able to handle that are the ones that haven't panicked and just reacted and lined up fast. A lot of the teams that they have been them with this and the formations have been teams that obviously didn't come in the game focused and able to line up. If you aren't able to do those things they kill you with it. It is all about being disciplined. So hopefully we will be the more disciplined team on Friday.