The University of North Texas football team walked-off against Middle Tennessee State University 33-30 behind the leg of sophomore kicker Ethan Mooney who drilled a 22-yard game winning field goal Saturday afternoon at Apogee Stadium.
While the Eagles improved to a 3-4 record on the season, it was the winning tradition that arrived during the wee hours of the morning that some may say helped lift the team over MTSU.
Denton resident Scott Campbell, 59, and his cousin, Brock Huddleston, 53, a resident of Liberty Hill have been tailgating at UNT home football games for almost a decade. Most of his tailgates have typically consisted of small gatherings of friends and family, Campbell said, where someone will bring the pistachios while he brings the beer. Each year though, when the leaves begin to change and cooler weather arrives to the North Texas area, Campbell says he tries to host a larger get-together that’s centered on football and barbecue.
“We decided this was a way to meet with our friends that we don’t get to see very often,” Campbell said. “I just say, ‘Hey, come to the barbecue and hopefully we’ll get some time to talk.’”
Campbell approached Huddleston about 10 years ago asking if he would be interested in coming up to Denton to cook a tailgate once a year for some of his friends and fellow alumni. Now in his ninth year of tailgating at UNT home football games, Huddleston said, it’s become an annual tradition.
An avid tailgater who went to Sam Houston State University prior to attending Texas A&M, Huddleston said that although he only comes to Denton to tailgate once a year he finds Apogee Stadium has a personable environment.
“You have a good group of people that continue to come back and support the [UNT football] program and have fun with family,” Huddleston said. “So, I enjoy the tailgate experience here.”
Aside from last year when they were rained out, Campbell says that in the years since their tradition began UNT has amassed a 7-1 record to include Saturday’s win against MTSU — when Huddleston is cooking.
Recognized by his sombrero-sized cowboy hat, long white goatee and large in-tow smoker, Huddleston, also known as “Señor Smoke,” said he drove up on Friday afternoon to begin preparing for Saturday’s tailgate. After the initial preparations were finished and the meats were properly seasoned, Huddleston drove out to Apogee to begin cooking their pregame meal almost 12 hours ahead of Saturday’s game.
“We got out here at 3 a.m. and started a fire, and we smoked all morning long until right now,” Huddleston said.
By 1 p.m. that afternoon, the meats were smoked and ready to be served to a hungry gathering of family, friends and colleagues. Huddleston prepared a timely Texan tradition that featured five prime briskets, 80 links of sausage, 16 pork tenderloins and one five-pound treat.
“We also have a five-pound bologna that we smoked over here,” Huddleston said. “It’s really kind of a treat if nobody’s ever had smoked bologna, it kind of changes the texture and gets softer.”
Typically, anywhere from 60 to 80 people can be expected to attend their yearly tailgate, said Campbell, who anticipated a total of 82 to attend Saturday’s festivities. While not everyone who participates in the tailgate will attend the game, Campbell said tailgating is ultimately about spending time with friends and supporting UNT football.
“It really is a great game day experience. I love my stadium, I love the leadership in the athletic department and what they’re doing for the athletes,” he said. “I just want to support it… So, I try to get people to come to the game and to the tailgate.”
The Mean Green will play their next home football game against the University of Texas at El Paso at 2:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 2, at Apogee Stadium.