When the TCU Horned Frogs face the University of Houston Cougars in Friday’s Texas Bowl, it will be more than a matchup of former Southwest Conference rivals. The game will also feature a pair of former local players on the TCU sideline.
Bart Johnson of Brownwood and James Gleaton of Early will both suit up for the Frogs. It will be the third bowl game of Gleaton’s college career and Johnson’s second.
Britton Maxwell, a teammate of Johnson’s at Brownwood High School, is a member of the Cougar football team, but is sitting out this season with a medical redshirt. According to the university athletic department, he will not be suiting up for the bowl game.
Many coaches and players say there is no such thing as a “bad” bowl game, and both Gleaton and Johnson agree. They said that the team generally travels to the game site about one week prior to the game for practice and bowl-related events.
“The best thing for me is that I get a few more hours of playing football. I’ve only got a year left before I’ll be hanging up my pads for life,” Gleaton, a junior, said. “It’s also a chance to show the TCU program off to the rest of the nation.”
Johnson, a redshirt freshman, agreed about the exposure the program will receive.
“The game will be televised and it’s a chance to show the nation what you can do. It’s a chance to extend your season, try to win, and go out on a high note,” Johnson said.
“And it’s nice being taken care of,” Gleaton added about the week of pre-game activities before the bowl game.
The two local players have one similar goal for the game, and that’s a TCU win. Johnson said he isn’t necessarily looking for playing time as long as the team wins.
“I’ve played behind Derek Moore this season, and he’s a good guy and a senior. I’d like him to come out with a good game,” Johnson said.
Gleaton said he hopes the Frog defense can pitch its third shutout of the season.
Both players will have family and friends at this year’s bowl game. Johnson’s parents have been to every home game this season, as well as the team’s road games at the University of Texas and Stanford. Gleaton said his parents have been to all the home games, and also traveled to TCU’s 2005 bowl game in Houston.
“My family is always there supporting me,” Gleaton said. “They pushed me through my classes, my mom always wants to know about my grades. My teachers and coaches pushed me to become what I’ve become.”
Johnson said he had been playing in front of his parents since high school.
“It’s great. I’m blessed to have parents who can travel. They went out to the Stanford game. I saw my dad before the game, during warm-ups, and gave him the thumbs up.”
Johnson has seen significant playing time this season, both on special teams and offense. He’s scored three touchdowns and has a handful of catches. His first score came against SMU when he recovered a blocked punt and returned it 17 yards for a touchdown, but he admits he doesn’t remember much of the play.
“That play during the SMU game was a big blur,” he said. “On all of the catches, everything, instinct takes over and it just kind of happens.”
Gleaton didn’t see playing time this season, but anyone watching him on the sideline witnessed his enthusiasm.
“The main thing is keeping it up the whole game, keeping the same level of enthusiasm. If you don’t, then your spirits start to fall. The other team’s not just there for us to beat. They are there to win too.”
Gleaton said it has been pretty easy to stay motivated despite not seeing much game time.
“It’s kind of a theme of mine,” he said. “When I came out of Early, they said ‘you can’t walk on at TCU, you can’t do it.’ I’ve always been proving people wrong. When you have those trials, it’s how you react to them. If it pushes you down, you don’t deserve the opportunities.”
Both players have set goals for next season, objectives they’ll begin working toward after the bowl game. For Johnson, it’s to work hard enough in the offseason and spring practices to earn the starting spot as the H (slot) receiver for the Horned Frogs.
Gleaton said he has his eye on setting one of the linebacker weight lifting records and to be a part of a linebacking corps that steps up and successfully replaces this year’s starters.
Maxwell played in the Cougars’ first seven games of the 2006 campaign before suffering an injury against Southern Miss. As an inside linebacker, he made his college debut against Rice and picked up his first solo tackle in that same game. Maxwell, a sophomore with three years of eligibility left, recorded three solo tackles before his season-ending knee injury.
The Horned Frogs have a 7-5 record this season, including a 4-4 record in the Mountain West Conference. This is the Horned Frogs’ third consecutive winning season and their third consecutive bowl appearance.
Last year, TCU defeated Northern Illinois in the Poinsettia Bowl, and in 2005, the Horned Frogs defeated Iowa State in the Houston Bowl. It will be TCU’s ninth bowl game in the past 10 years, a streak that extends back to the 1998 Sun Bowl, where TCU beat USC by the score of 28-19.
The Cougars have an 8-4 record this season, finishing second in Conference USA’s East division with a 6-2 conference record. This will be Houston’s third consecutive bowl appearance and fourth in five seasons.
Last year as Conference USA champions, the Cougars faced South Carolina in the Liberty Bowl.
Former Cougar coach Art Briles was recently named the head coach at Baylor. On Dec. 14, Kevin Sumlin was named the new coach at Houston.
The 2007 Texas Bowl will be played at 7 p.m. Friday at Houston’s Reliant Stadium and will be televised nationally on the NFL Network.