Rice and Air Force welcomed with honky-tonk kickoff party

The city of Fort Worth and Bell Helicopter welcomed Rice University and the Air Force Academy to town Dec. 26 with an Armed Forces Bowl kickoff party at Billy Bob’s Texas at the city’s historic stockyards grounds.

The more than 200 football players, coaches and staff were treated to a traditional Texas barbecue dinner, which included beef brisket, beans, potato salad, coleslaw and pecan pie. Billy Bob’s, known as the largest honky-tonk in the world with enough room for 6,000 guests, is also famous for its mechanical bulls and live bull riding. But the coaches didn’t need to worry – those were off limits tonight.

After dinner, Armed Forces Bowl executive director Brant Ringler took to the stage and welcomed the teams to the 10th annual bowl. He advised the players to play for the name on the front of their jersey, not on the back of it, and to play for the seniors on their respective teams, because it’s their last college game. Ringler noted that the Armed Forces Bowl trophy is made of materials from the Iraq battlefield, and half of the people who attend the game Dec. 29 will be active military, veterans and others associated with the military. It was also announced that 700 “wounded warriors” would be traveling to Fort Worth and attending the game.

After Ringler spoke, he introduced Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price. With her southern drawl in pitch-perfect shape, Price led a crowd competition between the two schools to see who could say “howdy” the best. She declared the competition a draw after both teams all but perfected the Texas saying.

The night ended with four “Minute to Win It” style games between Rice and Air Force players. One game had two players from each team competing to be the first to empty a tissue box, one tissue at a time. Rice won three of the four games.

The Rice Owls will be back to work the morning of Dec. 27, with team practice being moved to Texas Christian University’s indoor facility due to the unusually cold weather and recent snow in Fort Worth.

The Owls play the Falcons Saturday at 10:45 a.m. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN.

About David Ruth

David Ruth is director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.