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HCS Op-Ed: Final Destination, Atlanta: My Trip to the Peach Bowl

For most TCU fans, seeing the Horned Frogs play in person was concluded at home against Iowa State. I was lucky enough to be able to continue this one last time. When the falling out occurred of TCU dropping out of the playoffs, I was good with missing whatever bowl game they would be sent to. However, my father had other plans. This recap is more than just what took place on the field, but the experience that I had while traveling to the Peach Bowl.

Prior to booking this trip, I was ok with not going. I was disappointed that TCU was not going to be in the playoffs, and I was content with watching them play on T.V. But, I am glad that my father felt otherwise. My father made it really simple to understand the reasoning of why we should go to this game. This game was about more than just about where TCU landed when they fell out of the playoffs. This game was about supporting the guys, the players, who gave their all every game this season. The TCU players needed to have fans show up to watch them play because they deserved it. With this in mind, I was ready for TCU to “give ‘em Hell” one last time.

With the trip booked and planned, my father and I went to DFW airport the day before the game. The departing flight out of Dallas was scheduled at 8:40 am. It is here at the departing gate, that I first witnessed the outpouring support for TCU. Everywhere I turned all I could see was purple and white, TCU fans were ready for the flight. The plane itself might as well have had T-C-U painted on the side. It made me proud knowing that TCU was coming and the players would be well represented. Even on the flight, the pilots and attendants acknowledged that this was a TCU trip. With an announcement over the intercom, the flight attendant got everyone on board to lean into the aisle to take one epic fan photo. TCU was on its way to Atlanta, and the excitement of the game was truly underway.

Once we had landed in Atlanta, which was around 11:40 am, my father and I headed to our hotel. The hotel that we would be staying at was The Westin Peachtree Plaza, in downtown Atlanta. After we had got situated and dropped our bags off, we headed for lunch. Now, the place we would be going to was nothing special. It was just like any ordinary Tex-Mex restaurant that you would find back at home. What made this restaurant so cool, was what occurred while we were eating.

As my father and I were sitting down having lunch and drinking a margarita, there was a younger gentleman sitting by himself. Now, my father is probably similar to others, as he is very outgoing, wanting to strike up a conversation with just about everyone he meets. Well, it just turned out that the young gentlemen, who you would not have known by the way he was dressed, shared an affiliation with TCU. This TCU fan, who was in town for the game, graduated from TCU in December of 2013, which is the same time I did. So, we naturally struck up a conversation about TCU’s season. We dug into the lows, but mostly the highs, of TCU’s outstanding season. Unanimously the lowest low of the season was the loss against Baylor, with the high being the win against then number #4 OU. It was great to be able to fly out of Texas, take what has been a special feeling in Fort Worth all season, and sharing it with someone else you just met in a different state. What seems like nothing more than small talk, really transpired the idea to me, that fellow fans are not strangers. Fellow fans are just merely individuals who you have not yet gotten a chance to know. This was the case of meeting this gentleman, Dave.

After lunch, my father and I decided to go to the fan fest area where the action was. The location was at the Centennial Olympic Park. This is an area that was constructed for the ‘96 Olympics when they were held in Atlanta. It is also here that they have the Coca-Cola Museum and the Georgia Aquarium. With the fan fast going through a quiet phase, we decided to go to the aquarium. This turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip. It is inside this aquarium that I saw one of the coolest aqua marine animals I have ever seen. Seeing a whale shark and beluga whale was worth the admission price. While most other bowl trips I would have looked for more football related activities, this was a cool experience.

After spending time at the Georgia Aquarium, and spending time down at Centennial Olympic Park, my father and I headed back to the hotel. Having a couple of hours to kill before dinnertime, I was able to watch the LSU vs. Notre Dame game and the Georgia vs. Louisville game. The LSU game was close and entertaining to watch, but while watching these two games, I was getting fired up to see TCU take the field. I felt TCU had more firepower in store for Ole Miss, than any of these other four teams playing could handle.

When it came to be dinnertime, my father and I went up to the Sun Dial restaurant inside the hotel. This was a cool dining experience. In order to get up to the restaurant you have to take a glass elevator, that travels up 73 stories. It is up top that you can see a perfect view of downtown Atlanta, and you could even see the Georgia Dome. It was at dinner that my father and I started talking about TCU football and the goals in which they were able to set forth and accomplish this season. Also, the conversation transitioned from what TCU’s goals were, to what mine were going to be going into the New Year.

Now, my father likes to use analogies that will stick with me in order to get his point across, and most of those times the analogies are football related. It is here at dinner, that he used two football analogies that are worth remembering and worth sharing. The first one is, like in football where every inch matters in the game, every detail in your own life matters. To your morning routine, to your evening routine, and everything in between, the keys are in the details of the day. The second analogy is that you are your own quarterback in life. The coaches, parents, people you look for guidance, can only do so much. It is up to the individual, the quarterback, to go out and execute the plays, the advice, that was given to them. Both of these analogies, details and inches, and quarterbacking your own life, got me thinking about Trevone Boykin.

Coming into the 2014 season, no one could have predicted what Trevone Boykin was going to do at quarterback, nor did they want to. With the transfer of Texas A&M backup quarterback Matt Joeckel, most people were clamoring for him to be the starter. I can truthfully say I was one of those people. I did not want to see Trevone Boykin back at quarterback. He didn’t look the part the previous season, and even though he led TCU to a Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, the results of that season were mixed. However, during the discussions of Boykin being placed at wide receiver and Joeckel at quarterback, something clicked inside of Boykin.

It goes beyond the two new offensive coordinators that were brought in during the offseason. The real change towards TCU’s success on offense started with Boykin. He told reporters during the offseason that he was going to give up fast food and watch more film. Boykin started paying attention to the details, all for the betterment of his mind and body. The result of all the subtle changes in the offseason put Boykin in a place to be able to succeed and flourish in the new offensive system. Still, as much as credit is well deserved to co-offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie, who knows how this season would have been played out if Boykin did not make the minor adjustments to improve?

Sitting down with my father for dinner made me realize that in life, you are the quarterback and everyone is looking at you to get the job done. However, you can’t get the job done properly if you are not on top of every little detail in your own life. Trevone Boykin figured this out during the offseason, and because he rededicated himself, he went from a wide receiver to a Heisman frontrunner in 2015.

Waking up the next day for the game was bittersweet. It was sweet to know that TCU would get their chance to prove it belonged in the playoffs. However, the bitter part was coming from the fact that this would be the last game of this season for this special team. It would be the last time Sam Carter would suit up, the last time Paul Dawson or Marcus Mallet, or Kevin White would be playing. Those seniors helped the raise bar for TCU football well beyond this season. It was fitting their swan song would be against an SEC West foe. With one last chance to dominate, TCU did just that. Running out of the tunnel, and TCU fans feeding the dome with energy, TCU players came out and punched Ole Miss right in the mouth. What I really thought would be a closer game, was a gutting of the Landsharks Defense as TCU won 42-3.

When the clock hit 00:00 in the 4th quarter, most of the stadium was empty. The only sections left were the two sections near the end zone where the majority of Frog fans were. TCU’s fan base is small in comparison to other teams, but we are a tightknit group and we were all family as the confetti fell down. As we were all waiting for the stage to be assembled for TCU to take and receive the Peach Bowl Trophy, it was great being able to look at the final score, 42-3, knowing where TCU came from the season before. No more questioning whether the Frogs belonged in the Big12. No more questioning whether or not TCU could compete with the big boys. TCU WAS the big boy, and TCU ran the schoolyard.

When Gary Patterson finally took the stage with Trevone Boykin and James McFarland, the message from all three was invigorating. TCU is not done with this victory. TCU’s rise to the top is not complete. This victory against Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl was just the beginning. The Peach Bowl victory represented a small fraction, a piece to the puzzle of the masterpiece that Gary Patterson is trying to complete at TCU.

When the game concluded, my father and I went to the airport to depart to Dallas to be able to spend New Year’s Eve with family. The trip was coming to an end, but there was just one last special moment that would put the icing on the cake. On the departing flight back home, just like leaving to go to Atlanta, the plane was predominantly filled with TCU fans. So, when a special individual happened to be boarding the plane, an individual who helped yield his team to victory earlier that day, every fan was treated one last time.

As everyone was seated for takeoff, the flight attendant made an announcement that brought everyone to a loud cheer. The individual, who was announced, was starting running back Aaron Green. As Aaron Green walked to his seat near the back of the plane, everyone was either giving high fives as he passed or clapping. It was truly a special moment to not only share a winning experience with other TCU fans, but also with a TCU player. Out of all the bowl trips I have been on, Rose Bowl included, this bowl trip will go down as one of my favorites. Thank you TCU players, coaches, and fans for making this alum feel truly proud to have attended little ole TCU.

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