They say everything is bigger in Texas, a place the Georgia State football team just visited this past weekend. There were four special Panther fans in attendance, all of whom graduated from GSU and now reside in The Lone Star State. After returning home from their adventure, former soccer stand-out Candace Gonzales Dean put together her thoughts for a special InsideGSUSports blog.
The parking lot was filled with gold and maroon. The grills were lit, team flags were flying and the weather couldn’t have been better. It was game day! Banned together, four GSU alumni entered the Texas State gates, wearing our GSU blue ready to support our Panthers. This was going to be my first real GSU football tailgate. Just so happens that it’s in Texas.
Growing up in Texas means you love football. You don’t have to love the Cowboys, but you have to love football. And I did. Friday Night Lights wasn’t just a movie. It was a reality. Every Friday night in the fall we spent cheering on our high school football team. Football was part of growing up in Texas, so when it came time to choose the university I was going to spend the next four years at, a lot of my friends and family were surprised to find out I committed to Georgia State. Not for any other reason than that there was no football team. And they’re right. It was a hard decision for me to make, but I did it. My passion was soccer, and I loved everything about Georgia State from the soccer team, to the coach to the courses offered and of course, the city. It was just right for me. I had a blast during my four years on the women’s soccer team. I made life-long friends, tons of memories and I wouldn’t change a thing about it – football or not.
But I was super excited when the football rumors I heard during my freshmen year at GSU started to become a reality my senior year. By the time I graduated in May 2009, it was a done deal. We had a football coach on board (Yeah Coach Curry!) and even had our first player (fellow SAAC member, Mark Hogan). Football was scheduled to kick off in 2010. I wasn’t really sure how I was going to be part of this new program’s launch and success, but I knew if I had a chance, I would make it happen. For the next few years, I followed all of the GSU football news from afar, so I was so happy to see Texas State on the schedule this year. I knew I could make that game. With only a three-and-a-half hour drive from Dallas (much shorter than the 14 hours to Atlanta), we loaded up our car and headed south. My husband and I met my teammate Stephanie (Cuccia) Asher, and her husband and former GSU baseball player, Theo Asher in San Marcos.
It’s no stereotype. Texans are very nice and welcoming – even if you are wearing the opposing team’s colors. We tailgated for a few hours with our “frienemies” from Texas State. We spent the afternoon grilling out, throwing the football, talking a little smack and just enjoying the experience that I never had when I was in college. And although the game didn’t fall in GSU’s favor, we were just happy to be there. I was able to root for my team!
As a young professional in Dallas, I am constantly surrounded by Big 12 alumni daily and their nonstop friendly banter. I wanted to be part of it. I wanted to cheer for my alma mater on Saturdays. Now I can. I don’t always get to watch each game on TV in Dallas, but you can bet that my husband (also a GSU alum) and me receive our ESPN updates in real-time.
Four state lines and a different time zone won’t stop me from cheering on my Panthers. We can’t wait for the basketball team to be in Arlington, Texas next year! You can count on us being there. It’s official. We are #AllBlueAllIn!
–Candace Gonzales Dean