Leading the Red Raiders onto the field Jan. 1, 1954, as the first Masked Rider, Joe Kirk Fulton said he never dreamed the tradition would have lasted as long as it has.
Today, the Masked Rider will forever sit atop his horse riding full gallop into Jones SBC Stadium thanks to a new monument outside the Frazier Alumni Pavilion.
More than 20 former Masked Riders and about 250 alumni, students and administrators gathered to witness its unveiling on Saturday.
Joe King, 1975-1976 Masked Rider of Brady, said he was very happy to be able to attend the unveiling.
"I think a lot of what we are excited about is the acknowledgment of a tradition that is so important to this campus," King said. "(The monument) has given (former Masked Riders) a real boost."
He said the statue and monument has sparked a real interest in fund raising.
"It's a chance to give money back to the school, and the Masked Rider has received much more interest as a result of this statue," he said.
Alvin Davis, former administrator of the Ranching Heritage Center and Masked Rider committee member for 14 years, said he is glad to see the Masked Rider memorialized.
"I think this is the crowning glory of the whole Masked Rider tradition," Davis said. "I've dreamed of this (having a asked Rider statue) and pushed for this for years."
The monument is a 25 percent larger-than-life-size statue of the Masked Rider with cape flowing and riding a black American Quarter horse in full gallop toward the stadium with his "guns up."
The statue sits on a 4-foot-tall platform, and plans are still in the works to add the names of all former Masked Riders to the courtyard surrounding the area of the monument.
Grant Speed, of Linden, Utah, was commissioned to produce the statue through Bill Burford, an art dealer, Tech alumnus and former football player.
Burford is the owner of the Dallas-based Texas Art Gallery and had been in contact with Regent Chairman Jim Sowell about a monument for the Masked Rider, Speed said. "Jim Sowell talked to Bill about having a big monument and asked me to do it."
Speed also sculpted the Masked Rider statue that resides in the athletic offices lobby at the north end of the stadium and the bronze saddle the football team rubs for good luck coming out of the locker room.
"It's a real nice deal to be asked to do these things," Speed said. Although he took several pictures of 1999-2000 Masked Rider Travis Thorne to help him in sculpting the statue, Speed said he really did not want to depict a 45-year-old tradition after one person. He also used Fulton's original costume and saddle to help him with his artwork.
Applause, whistles and shouts were heard through the crowd as the tarp was lifted from the statue.
"It's a beautiful statue," said Student Government Association President Andrew Schoppe. "It's the exact image of the Masked Rider everyone sees. You couldn't picture a better image."
Schoppe said he thinks the statue is a reminder to students.
"Like all other traditions, it's just one more reminder of what Tech is all about," he said. "This is a real exciting time to be at Tech."
Anne (Lynch) Hudson, 1974-1975 Masked Rider, said there is just a good feeling when you see the statue.
"It's a beautiful monument for a beautiful tradition," said Hudson, of Escazu, Costa Rica.
Saturday's unveiling also launched a fund raiser for the $300,000 statue. Jim Douglass, Ex-Students Association assistant director, said sales of miniature Masked Riders, like the one dedicated Saturday, will help offset the cost of the sculpture. The cost of the statuettes is $7,500.
"Only 100 of the statues are being produced, and each will be numbered - $2,500 of the money will go toward the cost of casting the miniature statue, the other $5,000 will be allotted toward paying for the monument outside the pavilion," Douglass said in an earlier interview with The University Daily.
Buying a statue is not the only way a person can contribute to the Masked Rider statue. Douglass said people could purchase a brick with their name on it for about $100. The bricks will be used in paving the walks in Frazier Plaza.