UTEP Football and Arkansas Family Roots

UTEP v. ArkansasI don’t tell just everyone that I grew up in Arkansas. After all, I am supposed to be a fashion icon, not a hillbilly with a country drawl and a hankering for moonshine!

Nevertheless, I was born in Arkansas, have lots of family history in Arkansas, and moved to El Paso when I was 12.

While I don’t remember my first Arkansas football game, I’m pretty sure my dad took me when I was just an infant. My dad, granddad, aunts, uncles and sister are all University of Arkansas graduates. I learned early to “call the hogs,” which is an obnoxious cheer for the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Long story short, my hubby, Dr. Sam Paredes, is a big UTEP fan. He “claims” – although this may be a little self-serving – that he likes to choose a UTEP football opponent venue each year that will be a good place for me to visit.

This year he decided it would be good for me to connect with my Arkansas heritage, so we went to the season opener against the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

Fayetteville used to be a small college town. Now it is a key part of the Northwest Arkansas corridor, which includes Bentonville, Rogers and other towns. Northwest Arkansas doubled in population between the 1990 and 2010!

Growth has been driven by Fortune 500 corporations: Walmart Stores, J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Tyson Foods, as well as over 1,300 suppliers and vendors drawn to the region by these giant businesses. The region has also seen significant investment in amenities, including the fantastic Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, built by Alice Walton, one of Sam Walton’s children.

Accompanying the UTEP football team to an out-of-town game is exciting. It is mind-boggling just how much preparation goes into each trip.

We know the coaches and players practice, strategize and work hard toward winning each game, but few people know just how much work it takes to plan transportation, lodging, meals, training facilities, medical support, media opportunities, equipment transport and more. Whew!

You’ll always see some die-hard UTEP football fans accompanying the team to away games. It is heart-warming to see the passion and dedication, no matter win or lose, of players, staff and fans.

It was so fun to see the police escorts meeting the team plane at the airport. We boarded team buses and we felt like big celebrities as police cleared traffic, red lights flashing, and led us to town!

After we arrived Friday afternoon, Sammy and I walked the campus. A University of Arkansas tradition is that every graduate’s name is etched into a concrete sidewalk that winds around campus.

I had fun finding the names of my grandfather and his sisters in front of Old Main in the graduating classes of 1917 to 1922. The next generation of family graduates came in the 1940s, and the most recent was in 1981. It was like a treasure hunt!

Who knows where we might watch UTEP in the future, but I loved this trip – even if our Miners didn’t win!