Charlie's Angel: TTU Masked Rider credits late brother for his title
As the 55th Masked Rider for Texas Tech, Charlie Snider has to take on many tasks beyond his last year of college work.
"Every morning before school starts, I come and feed [Fearless Champion], clean his stall, check his waters, make sure they don't need to be cleaned or scrubbed out and dumped," he said, "and then check him to make sure he's good to go."
Charlie earned this role after two years of trying out to lead one of Texas Tech's most important game day traditions.
"The one thing every rider looks forward to is that run down the field," Charlie said. "It...all just happens quick, and you just feel the rush and the excitement of running the field and you get to the end and you're like, 'Oh, we're done. We ran.'"
While Charlie's horse, Fearless Champion, supplies him with plenty of adrenaline rushes during their game day runs, he has actually served more as an emotional support animal this year.
"I've learned a great deal going from the lowest point I could be to something that's amazing," Charlie said, "and something that not a lot of people can say they've done."
To understand this low point in Charlie's life, he has to first explain his older brother, Brenton Kristoffer Smith.
Brenton was nearly four years older than Charlie, and while he liked to push his buttons, he also pushed him to succeed.
"He was the one that knew I wanted [to be the Masked Rider] and knew I would keep going for my dreams," Charlie said, "because he always called me the Million Dollar Brother."
To Brenton, it was not if but when Charlie got Masked Rider, which made him begin to question his loyalty to OU.
"He was going to be that one person working on the field for Tech and wearing an OU shirt," Charlie said.
But that all changed after the morning of November 10th, 2015.
"I'd like his family to know that he was more worried of others than himself," Marcus Dennis said during an interview with KXAS in Dallas.
It's those qualities that drew Brenton to serve in the Army, and those qualities that led to his accidental death the day before Veterans Day last year.
"It's messing with me," Dennis said.
Brenton was on his way to work in Dallas when his truck locked up on him.
As a security guard, Dennis pulled over to help him while Brenton stood in front of his truck to warn oncoming drivers.
"Unfortunately, trying to prevent that from happening is what caused this to happen," Dennis said.
While a semi swerved to not hit Brenton, a city bus trailing it could not miss him.
"There was nothing he could do to prevent the situation," Dennis said.
Brenton died instantly at 24 years old.
"I was out there to prevent this from happening, and it still happened and I feel like it falls on my shoulders," Dennis said. "He wasn't able to say goodbye to his friends and family."
Even at Brenton's one-year memorial in Dallas on November 12, his parents, Jeff and Stacie Snider, remember almost every detail of that day.
"It's the worst call and it's the worst pain a parent can get," Stacie said. "That's the best way to explain it."
As Charlie thought of his last memories with Brenton after the accident, he clung onto his last piece of tryout advice.
"He was always like, 'You will," Charlie said. "You will. You've wanted it…you'll do it.'"
Those words drove Charlie to brave the four-month Masked Rider tryout process only two months later.
"I think Brenton was there to make sure Charlie did what he needed to go to get where he's at," Jeff said.
Charlie hoped to prove his brother right, one last time.
"It kind of hit me that what he had always wanted was coming true, and his little pushes were there to make sure it happened," Charlie said.
That's why Charlie wears a pendant with Brenton's thumbprint on it around his neck during each of his runs.
"Out of sight, so it's close to the heart," Charlie said. "No one can see it, but I know it's there."
Charlie is supported before his game day routines by his sister, Cheyenne Snider, who is a freshman Tech student and part of his field safety team.
Jeff and Stacie also attended most of the home games to watch Charlie and Fearless Champion lead he Red Raiders into Jones AT&T Stadium, many times with tears in their eyes.
"It's just a dream that we enjoy and we cherish," Stacie said, "and we are just wowed that he got to do it and is still getting to do it, and just wish Brenton would have been there with him to enjoy it, too."
That anticipated OU game fell one year from the last day Brenton was with his entire family.
"He's probably like, I couldn't be there…but here you go," Charlie said. "This is for you."
While Jeff and Stacie typically visit Brenton's gravesite in Dallas to tell him about any moments he missed, they knew it was not necessary to share about the OU game.
"He never missed any of it," Jeff said, through tears. "Matter of fact, he probably had the best seat in the house. We know he did. We just wish it would've been next to us."
But Charlie's Angel will stick with him far past this year, just like the Masked Rider tradition that united them one last time.
"I know that he's with me," Charlie said. "He's there because I knew he would want to be there. I owe a lot to him."
Charlie and Fearless Champion's last game day run will be at 5 p.m. this Friday across the field at AT&T Stadium in Arlington during the Baylor game.
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