Charlie Weis and Tommy Tuberville were either pouring sweat or freezing to the bone as they sat in the back of a military cargo plane four years ago.
“There was really no heat or no air conditioning,” Weis said this week, “so it was either 100 degrees, because they were piping in heat, or it was 20 below zero. It was awful, but it was probably one of the greatest experiences of my life.”
Weis, Tuberville and three other NCAA head coaches were on an overseas tour to the Middle East in 2008, offering support to U.S. military members stationed in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places in the region. In the span of two weeks, the group, in conjunction with Armed Forces Entertainment, traversed some 45,000 miles in an effort to express gratitude to service members and boost morale.
So when Tuberville and Weis meet on the field inside Jones AT&T Stadium at 11 a.m. Saturday for the game between Kansas and Texas Tech — a contest that will honor military members past and present — both coaches will do so with an appreciation for the fact that plenty else is going on in the world outside of an afternoon football game.
“A five- or six-hour trip on a cargo plane wasn’t anything,” Tuberville recalled this week. “It’s pretty tough, but with what they go through, it’s very easy seeing what they do spending years away from their families.”
Tuberville has long had an appreciation for military service. His father, Charles Tuberville, served during World War II as an Army first sergeant, earning five bronze stars and a Purple Heart during his career. He was a tank commander with the 101st Infantry and remained on active duty until he passed away in 1977 at the age of 53.
Tuberville told the A-J in 2010 that he was at Camp Robinson in North Little Rock, Ark., following along with his father during a weekend drill exercise, when he watched the famous “Big Shootout” game between Texas and Arkansas in 1969. So football and the military have always been intertwined for the Tech coach.
“Any and all of us who are doing what we’re doing right now,” Tuberville said this week, “who are Americans and believe in this country, if we don’t take our hats off to those people and what they’ve done for years and years to give us the opportunity to do what we’re doing here right now, there’s not much to us.”
Weis said his experience on the overseas trip opened his eyes to the power of teamwork. He marveled at how efficient members of the armed services could be when pulling on the same proverbial rope.
“In that time there,” Weis said, “I saw more things, more spirit, more teamwork and more camaraderie than you ever could imagine.”
Tuberville followed up the 2008 trip with another one the following year, joining forces with several more coaches, including Mack Brown of Texas. Tuberville has also worked with the Wounded Warrior Project, a program that offers support for injured members of the armed forces and their families.
It will be no surprise if Tuberville and Weis share a look — perhaps even a smile in the heat of battle — when jets from Cannon Air Force Base fly over Jones AT&T Stadium before the start of Saturday’s game. Both men have gained a firsthand appreciation of what that flight represents.
“The leadership that we have with the officers and the men and women who do what they do,” Tuberville said, “it makes you feel great about this country. Even though we’re having bad economic times and we have a big separation in this country on political beliefs, what keeps this country sound and solid is our military all over the world that sacrificed for the country. That’s what this weekend is all about.”
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