Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Our Family at the Cotton Bowl 2016

Because of the following reasons, our family was able to experience the renowned Cotton Bowl on January 2 up close and personal:

1.  Western Michigan University football team was one of two undefeated teams in the nation along with Alabama, with a record-breaking and history-making 13-0 record and a national ranking in the top 25.
2.  WMU won the Mid-America Conference (MAC) title.
3.  Grandson, Jackson #65 played left guard for the WMU Broncos.

Wow, what a year for these boys many of whom were on the team four years earlier when their record was 1-11 with a new 34 year old coach with off-the-wall ideas of how to build a winning team.

The next two years they were 8-4 with an emerging culture for winning ballgames and a mantra that the boys bought into 100% - "ROW THE BOAT!"

In January of 2016, in a meeting with his coaching staff, Coach Fleck held up a cotton ball.  It was his vision that they would work toward the goal of playing in the Cotton Bowl on News Years Day 2017.  Unbelievable!  However, the coaches bought in but agreed it should be presented to the team.

It was, and the team leaders wanted the team to have time to discuss it.  After meeting, the report to the coaching staff was this:
"Ok, this will be our goal, but we never want to hear it mentioned or referred to ever again during the season."

On Sunday, December 4, 2016 when it was announced that indeed, WMU had been selected to play in the Cotton Bowl, Coach Fleck pulled from his pocket a very worn and frayed ball of cotton.  It was the first time the boys had seen it since January.  He had kept it on his desk all year, but had carried it in his pocket for the first time during the MAC championship game.

It was now time to talk about going to Dallas to play in the
Cotton Bowl!
On Friday, Dec. 29, Hubby and I met our son and his family for four exciting nights at the
Gaylord Texan in Grapevine, Texas, the headquarters for the WMU football team for the week.
It was all bedecked for Christmas with decorations of over-sized proportions.
Here are just a few pictures.
Everything is truly bigger in Texas, right?

On Friday night, our daughter and her family, who live in Dallas, joined us for dinner and then back to the Gaylord to see our Big Boy for the first time.
These long-distance cousins had a wonderful time of reunion.  It was so much fun to watch them enjoy each other.
For the first time in five years all of us were together in one place.  It sure made us parents happy, happy folks.

One of the really neat things the Cotton Bowl does for the players is give them their very own tile in the huge mezzanine to their restricted area.
My daughter and I discussed having the three oldest grands recapture one of our favorite pictures of them.  They loved it!  And we all realized, they really haven't changed - except in size.
And then, it was Monday and time to play some football!

Jackson had about 47 adoring fans who made the trip to watch him play.
There were grandparents, aunts, uncles, even a great-aunt, and Indiana friends, everyone proudly wearing the WMU Bronco shirt of their choosing.
It was an exciting moment to see our Big Boy on the Big Jumbotron screen, the 2nd largest in the world.
And this made for a very emotional time for the proud parents who were seeing their son play his last college football game in such a amazing venue.
There was also a very special moment caught on national television.
Before every game since his first high school game, Jackson and Dad have made eye contact and pointed to each other as a sign of recognition and love for each other.  How special that Jackson found his dad in this huge mass of humanity and that it was captured for posterity.

We didn't win the game on the scoreboard but every one of those boys came away a winner.  They had achieved amazing feats against amazing odds and they played their hearts out.  As someone wrote in an AP article, "With a different 1st quarter or a little more time on the clock, they could have won this game."

The important thing for us was to hear Jackson say, "I feel really good about the way I played."  That's what we wanted for him.

Our son hosted the family and friends for a Jackson Celebration at a Texas Bar-be-Que restaurant afterward.  Again, it was a time of being together and loving on each other.
 We could be serious just so long.  But look at these beautiful granddaughters.

 Jackson and his long-time best friends from Indiana.
 We will forever treasure this time with our only grandson because of what it meant to him.  But also, because it was a time to celebrate all that is good; the results of working hard to achieve goals, spending time with family and friends and remembering and being grateful together for the one from Whom all blessings flow.


  1. Well, this brought tears to my eyes. To see all of you together just made my heart smile really BIG and I know you and Dick will forever treasure this memory. And, there's just nothing like the Gaylord at Cmas. What a great start to 2017!

  2. Oh Elizabeth. This entire post and all the pics just truly warm my heart and brought tears to my eyes. What a beautiful, beautiful family and such a joyous time you had together. I know you have treasured this up in your heart to savor forever.

  3. Well looks like your post had the same effect on all of us as I found myself tearing up BEFORE I got to the pic of the emotional moment for that mom and dad, and after that, well it was over, lol. What an experience for all of you! You will no doubt all be talking about this for years to come...what a start to 2017! Soo happy for you all..


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