(VIDEO) Hanna Brainard and James Ray served as the beloved mascot for the 2017-18 academic year.
Texas Tech University students Hanna Brainard of White Deer, and James Ray of Canyon, were revealed Friday (April 20) as the students who served as the Raider Red mascot for the 2017-18 academic year. The two were revealed at the annual Passing of the Guns ceremony in the McKenzie-Merket Alumni Center.
“James and Hanna served the Raider Red program with great enthusiasm,” said Bruce Bills, head cheer and mascot coach. “They love Texas Tech and it showed through their great work this year. Together, they did 235 public appearances and games, including one international appearance in Costa Rica. I appreciate the countless hours they put into this program.”
Brainard, a senior restaurant, hotel and institutional management major, and Ray, a senior natural resources management major, along with their assistants, attended on-campus events and made appearances at schools, fundraisers and civic events in the Lubbock community. Raider Red also traveled well past the city limits, visiting the new Texas Tech campus in Costa Rica at Christmas and joining the basketball team during March Madness as they made their way to an NCAA Elite 8 appearance.
In addition to serving as Raider Red, Ray was part of the Saddle Tramps, the university's male spirit organization, while Brainard served in the High Riders, the women's spirit organization. Both were full-time students this year.
“For sure, it's been crazy, but it has flown by so fast,” Brainard said. “We were taking senior-level classes, making sure our grades were still up and attending every event we could. We try to make sure if there's a request, we show up. It was really great getting to go all over the Lubbock and finding out just how much Raider Red means to everyone. Every person you meet has a story about Texas Tech or Raider Red, and getting to hear those memories and also being a part of this new memory is something I'll miss.”
Like Raider Reds of the past, both students said getting into the suit brought out bits of their own personality they usually don't display in everyday life.
“I'm a completely different person,” Ray said. “In class or on campus, I'm quiet and not very outgoing, but in the suit I'm bouncing off the walls, just full of energy and messing with people.”
Ray said one of his favorite memories is an appearance Raider Red made at an elementary school with the university's other mascots, the Masked Rider and her horse, Fearless Champion.
“They gave us ice cream cones, and I'm standing by Fearless Champion,” Ray remembered with a laugh. “I keep having to move my cone away from him because he wants some, and it was just funny. Everyone thought it was cute.”
For Brainard, the most memorable moment was during her visit to Costa Rica.
“I went for a Christmas parade I thought was going to be small,” she said. “It was 15,000 people. It was such an incredible experience, and I was really blown away by how welcoming the Costa Rican community was. It was such a fun experience to be immersed in a different culture.”
Ray said being a part of the Spirit Program also gave him a new perspective on just how hard the spirit squads work to make sure events and appearances run smoothly.
“It was definitely an eye-opener to see how much they put in outside of games and how dedicated they are,” Ray said. “When we were in Dallas for March Madness, the Pom Squad members were up at 7 a.m. almost every morning, practicing in the hallway and going and working out for about three hours every day before their performances.”
Brainard said that dedication and passion extends to faculty and staff who lead the program.
“It's been great working with Stephanie Rhode, Bruce Bills and Erin Harold-Alvarado,” Brainard said. “Seeing how much they have on their plate and how well they execute it is amazing. They're great role models and great leaders for the Spirit Program.”
For those students who will wear the suit next year, Ray's advice is simple.
“Don't be afraid to just be funny and silly,” he said. “Do whatever makes people laugh and smile.”
About Raider Red
Texas Tech's costumed mascot was born in the early 1970s when the Southwest Conference passed a rule that 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 a member of the Saddle Tramps or the High Riders.
For more information about Raider Red, visit the Texas Tech Spirit Program website.