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April 6, 2012The Texas Tech football semi-trailer truck will haul equipment as far away as Ames, Iowa, this upcoming season, but its most important mission ever comes tomorrow on fairly long haul to Lancaster, Texas.
Most Division I college football teams have large trucks that haul jerseys, extra jerseys, helmets, pats, shoes, fans, heaters, water coolers, trainer tables and even more. But Saturday the Red Raiders' football truck will be full of bottled water, canned food, dog food, shovels, toothbrushes, soap, clothes and blankets on its way to aid another region of Texas that lost 200 homes and had another 650 damaged during Tuesday's tornados in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
Despite a 5-7 record in 2011, the Red Raider football team has the largest influence on about a 150-mile radius of Lubbock, Texas. It's the lone entity that can bring can bring 60,000 people to one location, it has the largest media pull in the nation's 84th biggest city in America and it has that big truck. It's utilized all those resources to coordinate Lubbock's biggest humanitarian effort in recent memory.
"Our players actually came to me and said 'Coach, let's do something this Easter weekend. We get Monday off and we don't have to go to school on Monday so we can travel at 4 a.m. in the morning, bus five hours, work six or seven hours and do everything we can to help everyone out in that area,'" head coach Tommy Tuberville said. "We're going to get back on the bus late Saturday night and then they have a day of rest. We just want to help out.
"There's not a whole lot we can do and it's going to take months and months of those people's hard work to restore everything, but at least we can show some gratitude from our way because I know if it happened here there would people from that area come here. That's what life is about, helping other people."
Tech announced its initiative late Thursday afternoon, but the city responded in force throughout Friday. Donators, mostly wearing red and black, parked their cars and helped Tuberville, the equipment managers, some of the assistant coaches and various Tech employees and media members load the truck.
"Everyone is going to have some hard times," Lubbock resident Jerry Ham said right by the tractor-trailer. "I'm certainly sure the people there are devastated. We've been blessed and if we can do anything we can to help them we're more than happy to do it.
"If everybody would do just a little bit, it would help a lot of people."
Lubbock has been fortunate with its weather for a good amount of time, but a 1970 twister ripped the city apart -- including grazing campus itself -- killing 26 people, injuring 1,500 and causing $200 million worth of damage without adjustments for inflation.
Just 100 feet west of where the Tech truck was parked, the football stadium had sustained some damage from it.
Lubbock has very close ties to Dallas-Fort Worth area. The Metroplex's sports teams are rebroadcasted in West Texas and Lubbock residents go to the Dallas-Fort Worth area for things like long-haul flights, but the most important connection is the fact Tech imports 28 percent of its students from the affected areas and then return home after graduation.
"We have 30 kids going," Tuberville said. "A lot of them are going home. This is Easter weekend. These are kids that would be home anyway. We've got several offensive linemen and receivers Austin Zouzalik and Darrin Moore. The quarterbacks are going. Some of the guys are going to work and then go home until Monday."
A couple of future Red Raiders in 2012 signees Micah Awe, Lancaster resident La'Darius Newbold and Kris Williams were in areas near the set of tornados.
"La'Darius was right around the damage and I could tell in his voice he was a little shaken up and his family was," defensive line coach Robert Prunty told Lubbock's Double T 104.3 FM radio station. "But they're all doing well. It's just sad. I wanted to get on the phone and was wondering if the phone lines were working. When I got through to them they both had the same response.
"'Coach, I'm good. I'm alright coach. My family is good.' I was amazed at their maturity."
As Saturday comes and fades off into the distance of time, this is a win bigger than any the Red Raiders can put on the scoreboard. A football team and hundreds of West Texans combined to do something that has an immediate impact on life.
"We're all very devoted Texas Tech Red Raiders," Ham said. "If the Red Raiders want to do something to help, we want to help the Red Raiders and Texas Tech in any way we can. People in West Texas are compassionate and resilient. They don't think a thing about helping other people. They just do it."