Texas Tech’s original masked rider has died.

Joe Kirk Fulton, who first rode onto the field at the Gator Bowl in 1954, died August 1st, 2013 at his home on the Fulton Quien Sabe Ranch in Stonewall at the age of 81.

Fulton graduated from Texas Tech in 1954 with a degree in Agricultural Science, Animal Production.

So far, 51 other student riders on 14 horses have followed Fulton, and Texas Tech is recognized worldwide by the mascot he originated.

“Joe Kirk Fulton was known far and wide as being the first official Masked Rider, and that was indeed an honor,” said Texas Tech University System Chancellor Kent Hance. “But it was his love for Texas Tech that was truly outstanding. Today we lost a great Red Raider.

The Masked Rider was the idea of DeWitt Weaver, Texas Tech’s fifth head football coach, who led the team from 1951 through 1960.

Weaver noticed that Texas Tech was the only Southwest Conference school without a mascot, and just before the 1954 Gator Bowl, in which Texas Tech played Auburn in Florida, he decided to take the idea to the next level.

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During a 2011 interview, Fulton said “DeWitt Weaver knew my mother and dad and knew that I was an ag major, so he came to me. The first game was going to be the Gator Bowl, so I agreed to do it. That’s how it all started.”

The Red Raiders defeated Auburn 35 to 13.

Fulton was the Masked Rider for two more years, and then handed off the reins to Jim Cloyd, and the tradition continues to this day.

“It means a lot to me, the fact that I was honored to be the first,” said Fulton. “I feel very honored that it became the tradition that it did.”

The 2011 interview with Fulton is available below.