17 years later, Fort Worth’s Armed Forces Bowl going strong

Armed Forces Bowl

Of the plethora of college football bowl games, only one honors all branches of the military, and it calls Fort Worth home.

The 17th edition of the Armed Forces Bowl is scheduled for Jan. 4 at TCU’s Amon Carter Stadium. It will feature the Southern Mississippi Eagles (7-5) against the Tulane Green Wave (6-6), with kickoff at 10:30 a.m.

The game, sponsored since 2014 by Lockheed Martin, is known across the country as “more than a bowl game.” It’s a chance to pay tribute to the many brave soldiers who have served and are currently serving this nation. In fact, the very theme of the event is “Bowl for the Brave.”

“We are proud that the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl has become such a staple of the Fort Worth community every holiday season. This community embraces our armed forces and acknowledges the freedoms they continue to provide our country,” said Brant Ringler, Executive Director of the Armed Forces Bowl. “As the Bowl for the Brave, we will not stop honoring all the past and present, men and women, that have ever worn the cloth of our nation.”

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The bowl debuted in 2003 as the Fort Worth Bowl. That inaugural contest featured a 34-31 victory by Boise State over the TCU Horned Frogs – with TCU as the visiting team.

Eight of the first 16 contests have been games that were decided by a touchdown or less. That list does not, however, include last season when Army defeated Houston 70-14 in front of the largest crowd yet (44,738).

“Last year our game had its first sellout due to the phenomenal community support. In fact, each year we’ve been able to distribute over 20,000 complimentary tickets to armed forces families thanks to the generosity of our corporate partners and fans underwriting the cost of those tickets,” Ringler said. “The outpouring of support continues to amaze and impress us, and Lockheed Martin’s commitment and involvement in this event is nothing short of outstanding.”

The bowl has featured the armed forces theme since 2006. Patriotic overtones recognizing all five branches of the service are prevalent throughout the game. Past Armed Forces Bowls have included fan-fest adventure areas showcasing armed forces hardware such as flyovers, demonstrations by several of the military’s top skydiving teams, custom homes awarded to wounded warriors, on-field induction ceremonies, armed forces bands and honor guards, and the annual Great American Patriot Award presented by Armed Forces Insurance.

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Staff sergeant David Bellavia, the first and only living Medal of Honor recipient from the Iraq War, has been chosen as the recipient of the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl Great American Patriot Award for this year’s game.

The bowl game also created and operates the Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the Football Writers Association of America.

Sponsored by PlainsCapital Bank for the 2003 and 2004 contests, the 2005 game was played without a corporate sponsor. Owned and operated by ESPN Regional Television, Inc. (ERT), the Armed Forces Bowl was sponsored for eight years by Fort Worth-based Bell Helicopter (2006-13). Lockheed Martin, a staple of the Fort Worth community, became the title sponsor in the fall of 2014.

“The Armed Forces Bowl is a perfect example of the positive impact high profile sporting events have on the City,” said Jason Sands, Director of Sports for Visit Fort Worth. “It drives thousands of visitors to the city who enjoy our hotels, restaurants and attractions. The ESPN coverage gives us national exposure and the event honors our brave men and women who serve our country with the highest distinction.”

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The game has been televised annually on ESPN since its inception. Since 2014, RedVoice LLC/GameDay Radio has broadcast the game on the Armed Forces Bowl Radio Network. Westwood One (2003-05) and ESPN Radio (2006-13) previously provided the national radio coverage.

Amon G. Carter Stadium has served as the site of 14 of the previous 16 games. The 2010 and 2011 contests were held at SMU’s Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas while TCU’s home underwent a massive renovation.

The game has also featured teams from eight conferences as well as three independent schools.

The conferences represented in the game include the American Athletic, Atlantic Coast, Big 12, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, Pac-12 and Western Athletic.

“If you are a resident of North Texas and appreciate the true sacrifices of our armed forces, then I encourage you to come say thanks within our patriotic setting,” Ringler said. “Join the thousands that have already made this an annual family tradition. You will not be disappointed and you will leave loving America even more.”

Former Dallas Cowboys player Darren Woodson is the keynote speaker of this year’s Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl Kickoff Luncheon.

The luncheon will take place on January 3 at the Fort Worth Convention Center.

Woodson, a three-time Super Bowl champion, will address the teams, coaches and fans before the 17th edition of the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl.