Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl celebrates 20 years as Fort Worth showcase, tribute to military

Falcons like to run and do it well. (U.S. Air Force photo/Trevor Cokley)

The Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, the only postseason college football game named solely to honor all branches of the military and a Fort Worth staple of the college football bowl season since 2003, will be played for the 20th time Dec. 22 when Baylor takes on Air Force at Amon G. Carter Stadium.

The game begins at 6:30 p.m. and will be nationally televised on ESPN. Tickets to the game can be purchased at ArmedForcesBowl.com.

Initially known as the Fort Worth Bowl, the game’s name was changed in 2006 to honor the military and take on its continuing identity as “more than a bowl game.” The game was sponsored by PlainsCapital Bank in 2003 and 2004, played without a corporate sponsor in 2005, then sponsored for eight years (2006-13) by Fort Worth-based Bell Helicopter. Aerospace/defense giant Lockheed Martin became the title sponsor in the fall of 2014.

With a big-name sponsor and played on a field made famous by the TCU Horned Frogs, the Armed Forces Bowl is a major December showcase for Fort Worth. Owned and operated by ESPN Events, the game as been televised on ESPN every year since its inception. Bowl Season Radio has broadcast the game on the Armed Forces Bowl Radio Network since 2014 and in prior years national radio coverage was provided by Westwood One (2003-05) and ESPN Radio (2006-13).

- FWBP Digital Partners -

Amon G. Carter Stadium on the TCU campus has served as the site for all but two of the games. The 2010 and 2011 games were played at SMU’s Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas while TCU’s home stadium underwent a massive renovation. In 2018, the game set an all-time attendance record with a crowd of 44,738.

“Since its founding, Fort Worth has had a strong tie to the military,” said Brant Ringler, executive director of the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl. “The city has always shown incredible patriotism and appreciation for our armed forces, and our community partnerships are second to none. From our title sponsor, Lockheed Martin, to every sponsor, bowl volunteer and individual ticket holder, the support has made this bowl game truly one of a kind.

“It’s become a family tradition for so many in our great community to come out and say thank you to all those that have sacrificed so much for us to have the freedoms we all enjoy today.”

Patriotic overtones recognizing all branches of the service are prevalent throughout the game each year and it is the only bowl game to host the teams of all three U.S. military academies – Air Force (2007, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2015), Army (2010, 2017, 2018, 2021) and Navy (2013, 2016).

- Advertisement -

The bowl also has featured schools from nine FBS conferences: American Athletic, Atlantic Coast, Big 12, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, Pac-12, Southeastern and Western Athletic, along with a number of independents.

This year’s appearance by the Air Force Academy will be its sixth, the most for any school. Houston has appeared five times and is the game’s only four-time champion.

Lockheed Martin and corporate partners underwrite tickets so that all veterans and active duty members can attend and bring their immediate families for free.

“Our entire event is built to honor our past, present and future armed forces members,” Ringler said. “Everything around the game is a complete tribute to our armed forces, from arrival in the Tailgate Outpost and Veterans Village to the constant tributes for our heroes throughout the game to the team trophy ingrained with military parts from every branch. We are more than a game, we are the Bowl for the Brave.”

- Advertisement -

The Air Force Falcons’ opponent in this year’s game is no stranger to Amon G. Carter Stadium but TCU’s longtime rival Baylor will be making its first appearance in the Armed Forces Bowl. The Bears dropped their last three games of the regular season to finish 6-6 – one of the losses coming at the hands of TCU as the playoff-bound Horned Frogs won a 29-28 thriller with a last-second field goal.

The Falcons come into the game with a 9-3 record and a four-game winning streak.

Offense could be crucial in this matchup with Air Force leading the nation in rushing at 330.9 yards per game (5.4 yards per carry) and Baylor averaging nearly 34 points per game.

Since 2014, the Armed Forces Bowl is the second highest scoring of the more than three dozen bowl games in the nation with a total of 557 points. Only the Rose Bowl game (587) has had more points scored.

This will be the Falcons’ second North Texas bowl game in two years. Last season Air Force defeated Louisville 31-28 in the First Responder Bowl in Dallas.

The 20th anniversary edition of the Armed Forces Bowl is certain to produce some outstanding individual performances, and the most valuable player for each team will be recognized in the name of Tom Starr, the dean of college football bowl chief executive officers, who helped launch the Fort Worth-based bowl game. Starr served as the game’s executive director for six years (2003-08) and during his career  oversaw three other bowl games – the Freedom Bowl, Sun Bowl and the TicketCity Bowl (now the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl).

Here is the list of Armed Forces Bowl MVPs, year by year:

2003: QB Ryan Dinwiddie, Boise State; QB Brandon Hassell, TCU.

2004: QB Gino Guidugli, Cincinnati; WR Josh Davis, Marshall.

2005 QB Jason Swanson, Kansas; QB Kevin Kolb, Houston.

2006 P/PK Louie Sakoda, Utah; QB Paul Smith, Tulsa.

2007 QB Kevin Riley, Cal; QB Shaun Carney, Air Force.

2008 RB Bryce Beall, Houston; RB Jared Tew, Air Force.

2009 RB Asher Clark, Air Force; WR Tyron Carrier, Houston.

2010 LB Stephen Anderson, Army; WR Darius Johnson, SMU.

2011 WR Cody Hoffman, BYU; DB Dexter McCoil, Tulsa.

2012 WR Jordan Taylor, Rice; LB Austin Niklas, Air Force.

2013 QB Keenan Reynolds, Navy; LB T.T. Barber, Middle Tennessee.

2014 RB Kenneth Farrow, Houston; QB Chad Voytik, Pittsburgh.

2015 QB Jared Goff, Cal; QB Karson Roberts, Air Force.

2016 WR Trent Taylor, Louisiana Tech; QB Zach Abey, Navy.

2017 QB Ahmad Bradshaw, Army; RB Rashaad Penny, San Diego State.

2018 QB Kelvin Hopkins Jr., Army; TE Romello Brooker, Houston.

2019 QB Justin McMillian, Tulane; WR Quez Watkins, Southern Miss.

2020 WB Lideatrick Griffin, Mississippi State; S Cristian Williams, Tulsa.

2021 LB Arik Smith, Army; QB Brady Cook, Missouri.

And here’s a rundown of the game’s all-time results and attendance:

2003: Boise State 34, TCU 31, 38:028 (Fort Worth Bowl).

2004: Cincinnati 32, Marshall 14, 27,902 (Fort Worth Bowl).

2005: Kansas 42, Houston 13, 33,505 (Fort Worth Bowl).

2006: Utah 25, Tulsa 13, 32,412 (first year as Armed Forces Bowl).

2007: Cal 42, Air Force 36, 40.905.

2008: Houston 34, Air Force 28, 41,127.

2009: Air Force 47, Houston 20, 41,114.

2010: Army 16, SMU 14, 36742 (at SMU’s Gerald G. Ford Stadium).

2011: BYU 24, Tulsa 21, 30,258 (at Gerald G. Ford Stadium).

2012: Rice 33, Air Force 14, 40,754.

2013: Navy 24, Middle Tennessee 6, 39,246.

2014: Houston 35, Pittsburgh 34, 37,888.

2015: Cal 55, Air Force 36, 38,915.

2016: Louisiana Tech 48, Navy 45, 40,542.

2017: Army 42, San Diego State 35, 35,986.

2018: Army 70, Houston 14, 44,738.

2019: Tulane 30, Southern Miss 13, 38,513.

2020: Mississippi State 28, Tulsa 26, 9,000 (COVID-19 pandemic limited stadium to no more than 25% capacity).

2021: Army 24, Missouri 22, 34,888.