Howard Schnellenberger famously called the Cotton Bowl tunnel the “rampart” and drew ridicule for it. I never understood why. What a great, regal name for the tunnel. Or the ramp. Or the gateway to the darndest football game you’ll ever see.
OU-Texas is many things. Including the tunnel, which the Sooners and Longhorns traverse to enter the cauldron. In the old days, the Sooners and Longhorns often entered the tunnel at the same time, sharing the 123 steps from locker room to field, and with it came all the intensity and majesty and nervous energy that perculates before kickoff of one of the nation’s fiercest rivalries.
Newsok.com videographers Damon Fontenot and Tim Money have produced a five-part series on the OU-Texas experience, and today’s segments centers on that ramp. What it’s like to begin the journey down to the field, where the Sooner fans await in the south end (the Longhorns are in the north end and have to wait a fraction for their cheers and jeers to reach the ears of the combatants)? The video is at the top of this post.
On the video, All-American nose guard Tony Casillas called the ramp experience “overwhelming … an out of body experience.” 1970s all-Big Eight tight end Albert Chandler called it “unbelievable.” The players of today are no less enthralled.
“I’ve been out there five years in a row, and I always think what can I tell somebody who hasn’t been here what this is like,” Texas guard Mason Walters said. “Unfortunately for everybody that’s not going to get a chance to run out of that tunnel, there are no words for what’s about to happen. You just have to experience it. It’s like nothing else.
” The preparation is so much more honed in, and you wish you could do stuff like that every week, but you can’t because this game demands that respect and that preparation that’s so unique. I truly can’t explain it until you get a chance to put on the helmet and go out there.”
The Sooners definitely have an advantage, however small, in that OU fans surround the tunnel. In recent years, a tarp has been placed over the tunnel so that fans can’t have visual, audio or projectile access to the players while they’re on the ramp. But still, when the players emerge, the first thing they hear is the sound of OU Fans.
Texas defensive Jackson Jeffcoat said the game clearly is different. “It’s just such a big game,” Jeffcoat said. “We talk to each other about it. With the fans being split in the stadium, it’s just something different. The atmosphere is crazy just because when we’re running out you hear the OU fans booing us and then we get to the far end and our fans are cheering us on. You never deal with anything like that anywhere else except at the Cotton Bowl.”
Longhorn cornerback Quandre Diggs said, “It’s just something a lot of people don’t get to experience. I knew how big the game was before I got here, but I never took part of it. I never had been to it. It was just something that amazes me each and every year when I go, to know that this is one of the biggest rivalries in college football, and at 18, 19, 20 years old and you get to experience something like that at a young age. It’s a blessing and I’m thankful for it.”