(VIDEO) Seniors Jeremy Garcia and Mario Flores served as the beloved mascot for the 2015-16 academic year.
Texas Tech University seniors Jeremy Garcia and Mario Flores were revealed Friday (April 22) afternoon as the students who served as the Raider Red mascot for the 2015-16 academic year. The two were revealed at the annual Passing of the Guns ceremony in the McKenzie-Merket Alumni Center.
"Jeremy and Mario have been wonderful ambassadors for Texas Tech and the Raider Red program," said Bruce Bills, head cheer and mascot coach. "Each one has given everything he could to enhance Raider Red's image and visibility at Texas Tech athletics events and public appearances. Together they have made lasting memories on the program and it's been a pleasure working with them."
The students combined made 331 appearances this past year, attending schools, fundraisers, civic events in the Lubbock community, events on campus and Texas Tech athletics events, including the Big 12 Men's Basketball Tournament in Kansas City, Missouri, the AdvoCare Texas Bowl in Houston and the National Cheer and Dance Collegiate Championship in Daytona, Florida.
Garcia, a senior chemistry student from Alvin, said his favorite part about being Raider Red was realizing how important Raider Red is to the Texas Tech community.
"When you are in that suit, you become someone else entirely," he said. "You become so engrossed in portraying the character of Raider Red that there are moments when you legitimately believe you are Raider Red. Everyone wants to come up to you, interact and take pictures with you. It is definitely a huge ego-booster."
In addition to being Raider Red, Garcia is a part of the male spirit organization Saddle Tramps and an inorganic chemistry research group for professor Louisa J. Hope-Weeks.
He said before he became Raider Red he already had a deep love for Texas Tech by being a part of Saddle Tramps, but being "the man behind the mustache" has given him a greater appreciation for the tradition that is Raider Red.
His favorite moments this year were when Raider Red crowd surfed at the Jones AT&T Stadium after the Texas Tech vs. University of Texas-El Paso game and when he rode around on a hover board at United Supermarkets Arena during the memorable Texas Tech, 65-63, upset victory over then third-ranked University of Oklahoma.
"Ultimately, I just want to tell the Texas Tech community 'thank you,'" Garcia said. "Thank you for giving me the opportunity to represent an amazing school such as Texas Tech. Being Raider Red this last year has completely changed my life. It has made me a better person and taught me skills, values and lessons I will never forget."
Flores, a senior sports management student from Houston, said his favorite part about being Raider Red was contributing to the great spirit of the Texas Tech community.
"Being a Red Raider, I'm familiar with the hype and excitement that comes with Texas Tech and the community," he said. "But by being Raider Red I was able to contribute to that excitement by being energetic and involving myself with the community. It was definitely a neat experience."
In addition to being Raider Red, Flores is a part of Saddle Tramps.
Flores said seeing Texas Tech through Raider Red's eyes has been incomparable to his past experiences as a Red Raider.
"I love my school," he said. "But there is no comparison to the love for this university I felt as Raider Red. Students, faculty, members of the community and all who I have ever interacted with during this role were always so excited and accepting of Raider Red, which allowed me to truly see the impact Raider Red has and the impact it's had on me."
Flores said his favorite moment while serving as Raider Red was the AdvoCare Texas Bowl game in Houston because he had the opportunity to be Raider Red in his hometown and in the same stadium where his favorite professional football team, the Houston Texans, plays. He said the energy and vibe during the game was incredible that day.
"I just want to say thank you to both the Texas Tech and Lubbock communities for accepting Raider Red and the positivity that surrounds him," Flores said. "It was such an honor for me to be in this role and serve as an icon for my school. I'll never forget this experience."
Texas Tech's costumed mascot was born in the early 1970s when the Southwest Conference passed a rule which prohibited live animal mascots at out-of-town games. With the Masked Rider as the official mascot, Jim Gaspard, a then-member of Saddle Tramps, created the Raider Red character from drawings by cartoonist Dirk West to represent the university at road football games.
Raider Red is a public relations mascot who interacts with the crowds at athletics events and poses for pictures. In 2012, Raider Red was the Capital One National Mascot of the Year, winning a $20,000 scholarship to help fund the university's mascot program.
To be Raider Red, students must be members of either the Saddle Tramps or the High Riders, a female spirit organization on campus.
For more information about Raider Red, visit the Texas Tech Spirit Program website.