Darrell Royal, Roger Staubach, Bear Bryant, Eric Dickerson, Dan Marino, Bo Jackson, Troy Aikman, Doug Flutie, Eli Manning and Ricky Williams.
Sorry for name dropping, but those are just some of the great players and coaches I have been fortunate to see in the Cotton Bowl.
Growing up in Dallas, I was able to attend a number of Cotton Bowl games. That good fortune has continued.
My late father took me to Fair Park, and we watched Texas dismantle a Navy team with Roger Staubach at quarterback.
A few years later, I was selling programs to the Cotton Bowl game between Texas A&M and Alabama.
I used my pass to get into the stadium and saw Bryant lift Junction Boy and Texas A&M coach Gene Stallings in a bear hug off the ground after the Aggies had defeated the Crimson Tide.
This year's Cotton Bowl will also have special meaning and not just because it will feature Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who got my vote for the Heisman Trophy.
My son, Ethan, is a freshman at Oklahoma. He's attended previous Cotton Bowl games, but this will be his first chance to watch his school play in a bowl game.
With much trepidation, here are five of the most memorable (not necessarily the best) Cotton Bowl games I have attended.
- 1983, SMU 7, Pittsburgh 3
This is the first Cotton Bowl game I covered for the Advocate. The game featured SMU's "Pony Express" backfield of Dickerson and Craig James against Pitt quarterback Marino.
I was doing a story on Victoria High graduate Ricky Schulte, who was an offensive lineman for the Mustangs.
The weather was miserable. Sleet began falling during the game. There was also a screw-up and I did not have an assigned seat in the press box. I was given a seat under a vent, but I was so happy to be there, I never complained and as a result, Charlie Fiss, the Cotton Bowl media coordinator, and I became long-time friends and that led to my voting on the bowl's Hall of Fame classes.
SMU won the game on a fourth-quarter touchdown run by quarterback Lance McIlhenny. As we waited in the tunnel to do our interviews after the game, I noticed a number of alumni going into the SMU locker room, including one of my former classmates, for reasons that become obvious a few years later when the school received the death penalty from the NCAA.
I had a good interview with Schulte and did the first of many stories on him.
- 1984, Georgia 10, Texas 9
Texas had a chance to win the national championship under coach Fred Akers when it came into the Cotton Bowl undefeated and ranked No. 2. The Longhorns needed a win over Georgia and for Miami to defeat No. 1 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. Texas appeared like it would take care of its business when it led 9-3 in the fourth quarter. But Craig Curry muffed a punt, Georgia recovered and it led to a touchdown run by quarterback John Lastinger with 3:22 remaining.
At that time, reporters left the press box to go down to the field for interviews with 5 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. I had just come onto the field when the muff occurred. Some of my colleagues weren't as fortunate. One of the stadium's elevators got stuck, and they missed the rest of the game. By the way, Miami beat Nebraska and finished No. 1.
- 1986, Texas A&M 36, Auburn 16
Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson and Auburn faced a Texas A&M team coached by Jackie Sherrill that was making its first appearance in the Cotton Bowl since 1968.
Jackson lived up to expectations by rushing for 129 yards and one touchdown and catching a touchdown pass. But Texas A&M quarterback Kevin Murray passed for 292 yards and one touchdown and the Aggies won 36-16.
One of the highlights of the week, was getting the chance to meet and do a story on Yoakum's Dennis Mudd, who for many was the face of the Aggies' 12th Man Kickoff Team.
I was able to get reacquainted with Mudd and members of the 12th Man Kickoff Team when he hosted a barbecue at his Yoakum ranch to promote Sherrill's book on the kickoff team and the foundation created to award students scholarships.
- 1989, UCLA 17, Arkansas 3
The Dallas Cowboys had announced Troy Aikman would be their first pick in the upcoming NFL draft so there was quite a bit of anticipation when the Bruins accepted an invitation from the Cotton Bowl. The Cotton Bowl was the first chance I had to see UCLA play since I was at the school as a graduate student and teaching assistant. Even my wife, Denise, was excited when we spotted Aikman while shopping at the Galleria.
Aikman didn't disappoint the fans, passing for 172 yards and one touchdown in UCLA's 17-3 win. He also endeared himself to Cowboys fans by winning three Super Bowls.
- 2010, Mississippi 21, Oklahoma State 7
To be honest, not much stands out about this game. Ole Miss' Dexter McCluster was impressive and won his second consecutive outstanding player award.
But this was the first Cotton Bowl game played at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
In some ways, I missed the old stadium. But as Refugio and El Campo players and fans will attest, the new stadium is incredible.
Given the stadium's amenities and realizing the possibility to host future championship games, the move was more than understandable.
Mike Forman is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6588 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.