FORT WORTH, Texas (WDAM) _ They call it the “Bowl for the Brave,” and as much as the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl is about college football, the postseason game provides a platform for honoring the five branches of the United States’ military.
“It’s such an honor to be in this bowl game,” Tulane University coach Willie Fritz said Friday morning during a final, formal meeting with the media. “We have, I think, 29 players with parents who have served or are still serving. Then, when you start talking about siblings, grandparents, really, any relation, just about everybody in that (locker) room was standing up.
“It’s big for all of us.”
As it is for the University of Southern Mississippi, which will take on the Green Wave at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Amon G. Carter Stadium on the campus of Texas Christian University.
“We are a military town in a lot of ways, especially with Camp Shelby right there,” USM coach Jay Hopson said. “Jeff Hammond, who was the (U.S.) general in Baghdad was a USM quarterback. There’s just a lot of ties.”
The game, first played in 2003, took on a deeper shading of the red, white and blue in 2006 when Fort Worth-based Bell Helicopter took sponsorship for an eight-year stretch.
Starting in 2007, one of the three service academies _ Army, Navy or Air Force _ have appeared in 10 of the past dozen games and the Armed Forces Bowl stands as the only postseason game to have hosted all three academies.
Eleven of the previous 16 games featured an academy team.
The last time the game featured two, non-academy teams came on Jan. 1, 2015, when the University of Houston rallied to knock off the University of Pittsburgh, 35-34.
“This year, to have a rivalry as our two teams, that just enhances what we’re doing,” Armed Forces Bowl executive director Brant Ringler said. “The thing that we can show is that our bowl can stand on its own, without an academy, and that’s a credit to all the work our volunteers and sponsors have done.”
Lockheed Martin followed Bell Helicopter and Saturday’s game marks the final year of a six-year title sponsorship deal.
Ringler said Lockheed Martin, which has a sizable footprint in Fort Worth area, had signed on for another six years.
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price presented Lockheed executive vice president Scott Greene with a plaque proclaiming Dec. 29-Jan. 4 “Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl Week.”
Following the ceremony, the scene shifted to the “Kickoff Luncheon” in a nearby ballroom in the Fort Worth Convention Center.
In addition to both teams, the crowd featured a large contingent of active and retired military personnel. Colors were presented prior to the program’s start, and three wounded veterans were presented with “Fighting Spirit Scholarships.”
Ringler said thanks to ties with its vendors, as well as the various military resources in and around Fort Worth, meant that more than 20,000 tickets could be counted on prior to team selection.
“This is a city that loves its military,” Price said.
Even the winner’s trophy speaks to the game’s armed forces’ connections, with donated parts from each branch of the military incorporated into its design, including:
- Navy: A “structural fitting” from the USS Fort Worth (built by Lockheed Martin)
- Army: Engine components from a UH-IH helicopter
- Air Force: An “equipment panel” from a C-130 Hercules transport aircraft once deployed in the Middle East
- Marine Corps: Engine components from a F-180 fighter plane