Zachary Williams and Brac Hartman served as the beloved mascot for the 2016-17 academic year.
Texas Tech University students Zachary Williams, of El Paso, and Brac Hartman, of Lubbock, were revealed Friday (April 21) as the students who served as the Raider Red mascot for the 2016-17 academic year. The two were revealed at the annual Passing of the Guns ceremony in the McKenzie-Merket Alumni Center.
"I have really enjoyed this year working with Zach and Brac. They both have a spirit about them that made Raider Red come to life," said Bruce Bills, head cheer and mascot coach. "They did an incredible job of representing Texas Tech as Raider Red at more than 248 appearances this year between the two. I appreciate the countless hours they put in, and this program is better because of their service."
Williams, a junior mechanical engineering major, and Hartman, a sophomore chemical engineering major, along with a couple of student assistants, made a total of 387 appearances as Raider Red this past year, attending campus events and schools, fundraisers and civic events in the Lubbock community.
"It's not just a one-person job, it's not just a two-person job," Hartman said. "Without the assistants, it'd be a whole different thing."
Raider Red also traveled to Los Angeles to film a commercial for ESPN and AT&T, appeared at the state capitol in Austin for Texas Tech University System Day and attended numerous Texas Tech athletics events, including the National Cheer and Dance Collegiate Championship in Daytona, Florida, where the co-ed cheer and dance squads took first place for the first time in Spirit Program history.
"Being up there with cheer squad in front of all those people was incredible," Williams said. "When we found out we won, I actually took Raider Red into the ocean. I just got the boots wet, but that was an incredible experience."
In addition to serving as Raider Red, each of the students are a part of the Saddle Tramps, the university's male spirit organization, all while taking full-time classes. While they knew being the mascot would be a hefty commitment, they said it's given them the opportunity to improve on things like their time-management skills.
Besides the actual appearances, there also can be hours of preparing and traveling. Appearances can easily turn into a full day of work, which can be stressful if a student has other obligations stacking up.
"You may not know about a Thursday appearance until Tuesday," Hartman said. "You always have to be ready to go. If you procrastinate, it's really going to get you."
Putting on the suit brings out qualities not usually apparent in a student's personality, they also said.
"I'm pretty laidback, but I think if you ask any former Raider Red they'll tell you, you become a different person," Williams said. "I've had multiple people come to me and say, " I don't get it. You're so chill and laid back and when you put the suit on, you're just like this crazy guy.' It's just what it does to you. Once you feel comfortable, it's a whole experience you don't want to let go."
Making the most out of that experience without words was another learning experience.
"I think Red Raiders are known for being loud," Williams said. "But you can't talk when you're in the suit."
Still, he said, there's not much of a difference between being a Red Raider and being Raider Red.
"I think they're synonymous with each other," Williams said. "If anything, we're a super Red Raider. We love Texas Tech and we do it for the fans and for the people."
Sometimes, the line between the two can blur unexpectedly, especially in high-energy moments during events like football games.
"I'd be in the suit for the first or second quarter and then the next quarter, I'd be out," Hartman said. "Some music would start playing and I'd start dancing on the sidelines like I was still in suit. I'd have to be like, " Whoa, you're not in the suit, Brac. Now you just look like a weird dude on the sidelines.'"
But having that type of enthusiasm is what makes the experience worthwhile for themselves and the countless fans who come to events excited to meet the mascot, Williams said. He said he hopes it's something future Raider Reds remember.
"Push the boundaries of what Raider Red is and what the character can do and just have fun," he said. "That's what it's all about."
Now that their time as mascot is over, Williams and Hartman said they each plan to remain a part of the Saddle Tramps while focusing on school.
"I'm looking to finish my degree, you know, get internships, I guess just living the normal college life now," Williams said.
Hartman said he'll double-down on academics, join a professional organization or two and finish his time at Texas Tech strong. While he'll miss being able to throw on the suit, he does have some advice for his successors.
"Never take yourself too seriously," Hartman said. "The character of Raider Red is a goofy and cocky cowboy. You're the biggest guy on campus – act like it when you're in the suit."
Passing of the Guns Ceremony
About Raider Red
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.