(VIDEO) Saddle Tramps John Brown and Lance Lebron served as the beloved mascot for the 2018-19 academic year.
Texas Tech University students John Brown of Melissa, Texas, and Lance Lebron of New Braunfels, were revealed Friday (April 19) as the students who served as the Raider Red mascot for the 2018-19 academic year. The two were unmasked at the annual Passing of the Guns ceremony in the McKenzie-Merket Alumni Center.
"We're very proud of the way John and Lance served the Red Raider program," said Bruce Bills, head cheer and mascot coach. "They did a great job representing Texas Tech locally and on the national stage. They both worked hard to bring the character to life, no matter where they were."
Brown, an industrial engineering major, and Lebron, a restaurant, hotel, and institutional management major, and their assistants, attended 570 on- and off-campus events, including sporting events and visits to local schools, fundraisers and civic and celebratory events. In April, Raider Red joined the co-ed cheer squad for the National Cheerleaders Association & National Dance Alliance Collegiate Cheer and Dance Championships in Daytona Beach, Florida, helping them earn the national title for the second time in Spirit Program history.
The mascot also appeared at several men's basketball games across the country during their historic 2019 March Madness run and supported the Texas Tech baseball team in Omaha for the College World Series.
Below, Brown and Lance share some of their experiences as the beloved mascot.
Q: What was it like to represent the university and the Spirit Program as Raider Red?
Brown: "It was the biggest honor of my life. To be given the opportunity to be a part of the Raider Red and Spirit family was truly a great experience, and I made a lot of great friendships that will last a lifetime."
Lebron: "It was probably the greatest experience I could have ever asked to be a part of while in college. No matter what you do, you always had people looking up to you and excited to see you."
Q: What was your favorite part of being Raider Red, and did it live up to your expectations
going into the role?
Brown: "My favorite part was getting to see the joy the character brought to anyone and everyone in the community and across the nation. It was everything that I expected and more. It was just the best possible way I could have spent the last couple years of my life. I couldn't have asked for anything better."
Lebron: "I had been looking forward to trying out and possibly getting to be Raider Red since I was in high school. It definitely matched up with what I expected it to be. My favorite part was going to all the different types of games, meeting other mascots and cheerleaders and getting to interact with the crowd and getting them pumped up. I also enjoyed going to the elementary schools and seeing all the kids super happy to see Raider Red."
Q: What memory will stick with you, and why?
Brown: "To pick out one memory is way too hard. I went on so many great trips and met so many great people. One that sticks with me the most might be the Ag Feast at the beginning of fall semester. It was just so much fun, everyone really interacted well and there were a ton of ways for me to make a fool of myself. Another was my trip to Omaha for the College World Series. We spent the week in Omaha, playing Raider Red, and we got to know some of the spirit members' families from the area. I made some great bonds.
"We got to know almost everyone in the Spirit family because we did appearances with all of them. Though I didn't travel to Daytona Beach, the bonds we built with the cheer and pom squads are unlike any other and to see them succeed is great. Being there for the NCAA national title run in basketball was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I was so blessed to have been given that opportunity and to share that moment with the university; absolutely nothing can top that experience."
Lebron: "My favorite memory was definitely going to Daytona Beach and competing at nationals with the co-ed cheer squad. Going down there, getting to compete and winning the national championship that you get to brag about and have as a precursor to whatever you might want to do in the future, is just an awesome life experience."
Q: What are your plans after you pass the guns to the next Raider Red? Any advice
Brown: "I plan to graduate in December. Thoughts of grad school have crossed my mind, or possibly going to flight school to become a commercial pilot.
"To the next Raider Red: the more you put into being Raider Red, the better off you will be. I truly believe that having held this position helped me grow into an even better version of myself. Just run with it, and you won't regret it. This could be the greatest thing to ever happen to you, but you won't know until you give it a try. Just have fun, and let the program help you grow for the better."
Lebron: "I still have one more year of school. But after that, I plan to go back home and try out to be the San Antonio Spurs mascot, the Coyote. If that goal isn't realized, I won't give up on it completely, but I will be going into the hotel business. I want to do either food and beverage management or be a general manager for a nice resort.
"The best advice I can give to anyone who wants to be Raider Red, or a mascot in general, is don't be afraid to take a leap and try out. It's going to be challenging, especially if you've never been a mascot or if you have a different personality in and out of the costume. But it's an experience you only get to do maybe once or twice in your lifetime. You'll never know if you'll be good at it unless you go for it."
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, then a 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.