November 11, 2011
With Fulton, as the Masked Rider, leading the team onto the field for the first time ever, the underdog Red Raiders defeated Auburn 35-13.
DeWitt Weaver will go down in the record books as the fifth head football coach in Texas Tech history, but he might be most remembered for helping create one of the most beloved traditions in school history.
As Texas Tech celebrates its 50th Masked Rider this season, the insight and nerves Weaver showed more than 57 years ago cannot go unappreciated in the mascot’s history.
After all, it was Weaver who first had the idea.
“That’s how it all started,” said Joe Kirk Fulton, the first Masked Rider in school history. “It means a lot to me, the fact that I was honored to be the first. I feel very honored that it became the tradition that it did.”
Weaver coached the Red Raiders from 1951-1960, and he noticed early in his tenure that Texas Tech was the only Southwest Conference school without a mascot. So just before the 1954 Gator Bowl, which pitted Texas Tech against Auburn in Florida, he decided to bring the Red Raiders moniker to life.
“DeWitt Weaver knew my mother and dad and knew that I was an ag major, so he came to me,” Fulton said. “The first game was going to be the Gator Bowl, so I agreed to do it.”
Little did Fulton know the favor would change Texas Tech forever. He had an immediate impact, too. With the Masked Rider leading the team onto the field for the first time ever, the underdog Red Raiders defeated Auburn 35-13.
“The next morning the newspaper said it was the most exciting entrance that any team had ever made in a bowl game,” Fulton said.
Fulton stayed on as Masked Rider for two more years before handing off the reins to Jim Cloyd. And thus, the tradition was born.
“I had no idea it would become the tradition that it has,” he said. “I’m very proud of it, but it was a surprise.”
Since 1954, the Masked Rider has served as one of the most popular traditions at Texas Tech University.
Donate to the Texas Tech Masked Rider Endowment Fund. This endowment fund is set up to help offset the many expenses incurred by the rider each year. Your support is greatly appreciated.
Or send check to:
Masked Rider Endowment
Attn: Center for Campus Life
Lubbock, TX 79409
The Masked Riders and their hometowns from the 1950s: