After passing the guns, one Raider Red will be walking across the stage while another is preparing for life outside the mascot uniform.
They are the biggest shoes to fill on Texas Tech University's campus.
Literally. The biggest. They're hard to walk in, and once you're in them you can't complain. How can you complain if you're not allowed to speak?
The job as Raider Red is always a tough one. Toss in Centennial celebrations at the tail end of two years behind the famous mustache, and what you end up with is hundreds of appearances, days spent in another persona, and a place in the history books of Texas Tech.
The guns have been passed, and Nathan Dudley and Sydney Aalbers can now put back on their normal shoes, at least for a little while. They've shared the spotlight, even if you didn't know it was them.
“We've both probably done more than 300 events over the last couple of years,” Dudley said.
“I think collectively, since 2021, I'm around 400,” Aalbers corrected. “He's probably about the same.”
The time as Raider Red was transformative for both students. Appearances took them all over Texas and around the country. Aalbers remembered nine states in her travels as the famed mascot, and the time on the road was a growing experience for both students.
“Red has helped me come out of my shell, because I used to be really shy, a stay-in-my-own-lane person,” Dudley said. “Now it feels like my personality and Raider Red's have mixed over the past two years because half the time I'm me and half of the time I'm Raider Red.”
For Aalbers, her time as Raider Red set the stage for an internship with the governor's office in Austin as she works through her graduate degree in the Department of Agricultural Education & Communications.
While Aalbers will be at Texas Tech a bit longer, enjoying her time as a regular student, Dudley will use his time as Raider Red as a springboard into his next job.
The sport management major will walk the stage in normal shoes on graduation day, but will soon be back in a mascot uniform, this time as a professional mascot in the NBA.
“Some of my friends know the owners and the general manager,” Dudley explained. “So, hopefully, I'll be a mascot for a few years or however long that takes me and then get to know the people during that time and use my degree after that.”
With the pathways open to bright futures for both, Dudley and Aalbers look back fondly on their time as Raider Red. While all the travel and events proved transformative, it was their time in Lubbock, working in the community, they say meant the most to them.
“I'm a Lubbock native; I was born and raised here,” Dudley said. “So, I saw Raider Red at football games and at elementary schools, and just all the community events that he did and how happy he made people. To get the chance to give back in the same way was great.”
“The stuff in Lubbock is especially impactful,” Aalbers echoed. “The things we do far from Lubbock are cool, fun experiences. But the things here are really what are most memorable and have more of an impact on me.”
With the guns passed, Centennial Raider Reds Nathan Dudley and Sydney Aalbers should be saluted for their dedication and be remembered as part of the fabric of Texas Tech.
They've made the biggest shoes on campus even harder to fill.