Thousands of Texas Tech fans have watched as the Midnight Matador rode across the field before football games and Raider Red pumped up the crowd for the game.
The former Raider Red representatives and Masked Rider handed over their guns and reins to their successors in two separate ceremonies Friday in the McKenzie-Merket Alumni Center.
The first ceremony revealed the faces behind Tech’s mascot Raider Red and highlighted their accomplishments throughout their years behind the costume.
Juan Munoz, vice provost of undergraduate education and vice president for institutional diverstiy equity and community engagement, was one of the many who spoke at the event and said Raider Red is one of the most recognizable characters for Tech.
“I have literally seen people weep when they received the opportunity to meet Raider Red in real life,” he said. “Families everywhere see this university through the Red Raider mascot.”
The ceremony began with the recognition of the many people and groups who have made Raider Red what he is today.
Jim Gaspard, the 3D creator of the original Raider Red, was recognized during the ceremony and said he never thought his creation would become this big.
“Dirk West was the actual creator of Raider Red, I just made his drawings into a 3D costume,” Gaspard said. “I feel very honored now that Raider Red has become recognizable all over the world.”
For the majority of a student’s time as Raider Red, not very many people know the true identity of Raider Red.
Zach Bohls, a senior public relations major from Austin, and Geoff Waller, a senior history and political science major from Lubbock, were officially revealed as the faces behind Raider Red for the past two to three years.
Travis Seamus, the representative for Saddle Tramps at the ceremony, said that for a long time he didn’t know that his fraternity big brother was the mascot.
“Zach was actually one of the reasons I decided to come to Tech when I first saw him dressed as Raider Red during a visit,” Seamus said. “I just remember him calling me out during games saying I was his little. He has been the best mentor a guy could have.”
Bohls and Waller were given a series of keepsakes during the ceremonies such as scrapbooks of their times as Raider Red, official class rings and official Tech letter jackets.
Bruce Bills, cheer squad and mascot coach, was in charge of the boys through their years as Raider Red and said this was the least they could do for them.
“These boys have been so great throughout the years and we wanted to do something to help them remember their time behind the Raider Red costume,” he said. “I’m really going to miss these guys and all the times we got to spend together at games and appearances. They have really become like little brothers to me throughout the years.”
Bohls and Waller then received the opportunity to speak and talk about their experience as Raider Red, starting with Waller.
“I remember standing behind the walls in the Alumni Center two years ago when the guns were being passed down to me as one of the new mascots,” Waller said. “All the times I spend in the Raider Red costume have been such unreal experiences.”
Waller was the first-ever student to ride across the Jones AT&T Stadium sitting on the back of a motorcycle, spirit program director, Stephanie Rhode, said.
“I remember getting a call during the bonfire this past year to come to the stadium to try out an idea they had since our horse was injured,” Waller said. “I had no idea that was what they had in store for me though. That was by far my favorite appearance as Red.”
Bohls spoke next about his long-time dream of being the Tech mascot and how it became a reality.
“As Geoff said earlier, being Raider Red is an escape for us. I personally see Red as a real person,” he said. “As dumb as this sounds, he is my best friend. Even though it feels as though I’m losing him now, having the opportunity to be Red has changed me and made me the person I am today.”
Bohls was the face of Raider Red when the mascot won the Capitol One Mascot Challenge contest and traveled to California and Florida for the contest and recognition, Rhode said.
“The trip was so incredible and of course winning the national championship title for Red was completely unreal,” Bohls said. “After meeting the other competitors, I just thought ‘There is no way I am winning this.’ So when we won and I got to go to Florida to accept our $20,000 check, I was completely blown away and felt so honored.”
Bohls and Waller gave out awards of their own for all the people who have helped them throughout their years as Raider Red, such as the Saddle Tramps, the campus life directors, their supervisors and coaches, and their families.
“As much as everyone is going to want to congratulate me for my years as Red, everyone really has to congratulate themselves for putting up with me,” Bohls said.
The ceremony ended with the new Raider Red being brought in as Bohls and Waller handed off their guns to the new mascot.
“This was a big year in general for our mascots,” Rhode said. “But, we don’t want to forget where we came from.”
Immediately after the mascot ceremony, Ashley Wenzel, a junior education major from Friendswood, was recognized for her role as the Masked Rider for the past year.
“After coming to orientation my freshman year and taking a picture with the Masked Rider, I knew that I wanted to be in their spot,” Wenzel said. “I never imagined this would happen to me; that I would get the chance to actually be the Masked Rider.”
Before Wenzel spoke, Rhode announced the winner of the Name the Horse contest that would be given to the new horse in the fall.
“Dr. Haggard sent in this name two minutes after we opened up the contest,” Rhode said. “The name of our new horse for the next rider will be the Fearless Champion.”
Wenzel thanked all the people who have helped her the past year including her assistants, the safety crew, her mentors and her parents.
“Ashley has been one of the best riders we have had in a very long time,” former Masked Rider, Christi Chadwell said. “I am very honored that I got to be her mentor and also to call her my friend.”
The ceremony concluded with Wenzel retiring her mask and cape and Corey Waggoner, a junior animal science major from Lubbock, being recognized as the 2013-2014 Masked Rider.
“I am beyond excited and ready for this next year to start,” Waggoner said. “All I can say now is Guns Up and Wreck ‘em Tech.”