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Horned Frogs thrive in the desert. Tens of thousands of them descended on the Fiesta Bowl in Arizona to watch the TCU football team clinch a spot in the College Football Playoff National Championship game Jan. 9.

Horned Frog alumni, students, faculty and staff traveled 1,043 miles … and more. 

Patty Ruiz ’01 traveled from Chicago with her husband. 

“We met our freshman year. This was our Christmas gift to each other,” she said.  “We’re not staying with the alumni group, we’re staying at a hotel in downtown Phoenix, and it’s been awesome because we’re still seeing a lot of TCU people at our hotel, and then we’re even converting a lot of non-TCU people to root for the Horned Frogs, so it’s kind of like an evangelical outreach.”

Mike Kirkpatrick87 traveled from Washington D.C., where he is an attorney. 

“It’s nice for my generation—no way we would miss this. We sat through a lot of lean years,” he said. “We’re the first team from Texas to be in the College Football Playoff. Obviously when it started in 2014, we felt like we should’ve been there. And now we are.”

Kirkpatrick traveled with about 30 of his fellow band alumni, including Drew Ruiz ’85. They were some of thousands to attend TCU Alumni’s official tailgate. 

“We traveled together to the other Fiesta Bowl, the Rose Bowl—but this one matters more than any have,” Ruiz said. “I’m not nervous, but I’m super excited to see how this turns out. Trust Sonny.”

Head Coach Sonny Dykes led the team to an undefeated regular season, the No. 3 team in the nation and TCU’s first-ever playoff appearance. 

John Thomas had plans to meet his Horned Frog son Ryan at the game. Unfortunately, he would experience the game alone. Ryan was one of many plagued with flight cancelations and delays. 

Steve Slaughter, an industry partner who teaches in TCU’s fashion design program, luckily made it without incident. It’s one of many games he’s attended this historic year. 

“We were at the home games, the Baylor game—and of course we’ll be there next week in Los Angeles,” he said with confidence before kickoff. 

Among many TCU leaders, newly named University President Daniel Pullin was there to cheer on the Frogs. 

“I can’t think of a better time or better place to be transitioning into this role alongside the leadership of Chancellor Boschini,” Pullin said. “We have TCU on a national stage and the Horned Frog family coming together—it’s truly incredible.”

Following TCU’s 51-45 win over No. 2 University of Michigan—a game in which TCU led in its entirety—John Thomas was in the concourse on the phone with Ryan, one hand on his ear, struggling to hear over the crowd. 

“It was crazy,” he told his son. 

Hopefully they’ll be able to watch the National Championship game together.  

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