It’s almost as if Mother Nature understood the significance of the day. She provided lots of sunshine and moderate temperatures in the 80s for the historic event at Farrington Field.
After all, how could it rain on one of the most important sports days in the history of Texas Wesleyan University?
The Rams were playing their first home football game since 1941. Sure, they lost 29-13 to Millsaps College, but the final score was secondary to fun everyone in attendance appeared to be having.
And everyone, it seemed, is happy football is back at Wesleyan.
“I have family members who went to Wesleyan,” said Oren Leonard. “I think it will be great for Wesleyan, the school, the students. It’ll even be great for Farrington Field.
“Plus, it’s great to have something more for the community to get involved in.”
And get involved they did. Almost 4,500 showed up for the game and the pre-game festivities that included a live broadcast and contests from a local radio station, area restaurants had giveaways, and other fun activities such as face painting for children and cornhole games.
“I spent one year there, my wife is an alumnus, and my son is a senior. He’s the athletic training manager,” said Don Sanford. “I love this. It’s good for the school, good for Fort Worth. I just hope Fort Worth supports it as much as they support TCU.”
Members of the Texas Wesleyan Choir sang the national anthem before kickoff. At halftime, Fort Worth Councilwoman Kelly Allen Gray issued a proclamation and former students from as far back as the 1940s, such as Curtis Blair (1947) and Elaine Doyle (1945) – who was also celebrating her 92nd birthday – were recognized.
Jerry Gilbreath, a 1992 graduate, won the inaugural halftime football toss contest.
Also, it was First Responders Day, honoring the brave men and women who save lives with their actions.
Brad Gothberg and his wife made a trip from San Francisco for the occasion. Though neither is a Wesleyan graduate, they came to visit a friend who is and took in the moment.
“Hearing the story from my friend, I think this is very motivating,” Gothberg said.
Current students are also thrilled at the return of football to the school.
“I’m really excited. I think it can open a lot of doors for the university,” said senior Emily Messenger, who is in the choir. “I’m a music student, and it’s been great for us.”
Senior Bridget Rivera added, “I’m just a really big football fans, and this is great. We’re all really excited, Fort Worth is excited. And it gets our college name out there.”
The excitement wasn’t only shared by local fans. Some visitors supporting Millsaps were also happy to see the return of football to Wesleyan.
“We’re from Austin and our son goes to Millsaps. This is great for Fort Worth to have football back at Wesleyan,” said Michael O’Brien, who, when asked if he is related to the famous television host Conan O’Brien, laughed and said, “He wishes.”
His brother, John O’Brien, from Denton, offered these thoughts, “I think every college in Texas should have a football team. Look at the people here today.”
As for the game itself, the Rams recovered a Millsaps fumble on the opening kickoff, but a field goal attempt bounced off the goalpost. The Majors then built a 26-0 halftime lead before Wesleyan fought back in the second half.
Bryce Nye made history with his 30-yard field goal in the third quarter. It was the first points scored at home by the Rams in 76 years. It came after Donovan Davidson had a 78-yard kickoff return to start the second half.
The first touchdown at Farrington for the Rams since 1941 came when quarterback Kane Hardin connected with Eric Richards for a 24-yard score in the final seconds of the third quarter. Nye followed with a second field goal midway through the fourth.
The second-half effort left fans with some anticipation about what might lie down the road for the Rams.
“Good fight. They didn’t lay down,” said Arsene St. Mary, who traveled from San Antonio for the game. “The coaching is excellent.
“It’s giving these kids an opportunity to play they probably wouldn’t have elsewhere,” said Raul Gonzalez of Mansfield. “This is something the community’s going to support.
“And they didn’t give up, that’s a typical Joe Prud’homme (head coach) team. They’re going to build a great program.”