Kennedy: Former McCallie 'Spiritual' now hopping with the Frogs

The TCU Rangers are the keepers of the flags at Horned Frog home football games. Twenty-year-old Michael Brown, of Harrison, is a TCU Ranger at the north Texas university. (TCU photo)
The TCU Rangers are the keepers of the flags at Horned Frog home football games. Twenty-year-old Michael Brown, of Harrison, is a TCU Ranger at the north Texas university. (TCU photo)
photo Michael Brown (Photo: Debbie Brown)

Please forgive Michael Brown's neighbors in Harrison if they think he's a little daffy.

While at home this summer, the 20-year-old college student has been walking around his neighborhood in long pants and a bulky sweatshirt. In 95-degree heat!

Brown explains he is conditioning his body for a return this week to the searing heat of North Texas.

The McCallie School graduate has gone from appearing in a 2015 Blue Tornado "hype" video to hopping with the Horned Frogs at Texas Christian University.

Instead of antagonizing cross-town rivals at Baylor School as a member of McCallie's "Spirituals" spirit crew, this year the Texas Christian University junior will be joining the flag-waving, spirit-lifting TCU Rangers. Coincidentally, TCU also has a Big 12 conference rival named Baylor: Baylor University.

The Rangers are a hand-picked spirit group at the Fort Worth, Texas, campus responsible for energizing the home crowd in games against such football powers as the University of Oklahoma and Ohio State University. Part of the pre-season training for the Rangers is acclimating to the heat, so when the season starts in September they'll be ready to wear the group's uniform: jeans, long-sleeve shirts, vests and cowboy hats.

Brown's path from McCallie to the Lone Star State is the product of pure serendipity. Back during his college-search days, Brown and his mother were on their way to visit colleges on the West Coast - including UCLA and Pepperdine University - when they had a flight delay in Dallas. On a whim, they decided to make a detour to visit the nearby Texas Christian University campus, and Michael was instantly smitten with the place.

"We had been to like 15 schools all around the Southeast. And I was looking at go further out West," Brown explained. "I wanted to do something in film or TV. I was in drama [at McCallie] and had done a lot of spirit stuff."

Yet, young Michael was immediately charmed by the TCU campus, which has a big-time athletics program - the football team is ranked 20th in the nation in preseason ratings. Meanwhile, student body - just over 10,000 - is much smaller than some of the mega-campuses that comprise the universe of big-time college football schools.

photo Mark Kennedy

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"I love the size," Brown said.

While at McCallie, Brown was part of what has become an annual tradition: creating a spirit video prior to the big Baylor-McCallie game. In the 2015 video, he can be seen charging forward with a McCallie flag to the tune of "Own This Town" a song popularized by Rihanna and Kanye West. (Red Raider fans would no-doubt want to remind us that Baylor School ultimately won the game 38-14.)

At TCU, Brown will be waving a flag again. Members of the TCU Rangers also lead the Frog Walk pre-game procession, blow a train whistle after every home-team score, shoot T-shirt cannons and exhort the crowd at the 45,000-seat Amon G. Carter stadium.

Only about 20 juniors and seniors at TCU are picked to be part of the Rangers. Applicants go through multiple interviews and must be well versed in TCU history. For example, Davis explains that the Horned Frog moniker comes from the fact that one of the original TCU football teams encountered hoards of horned lizards on their practice field - tenacious little creatures that reportedly shoot blood through their eyes.

As lore has it, "Horned Frogs" supplanted "Fightin' Preacher Boys" as the team's nickname a good swap, wouldn't you say?

If people in the Southeast seem impassioned about college football, Texas football culture is in a league of its own, Brown said.

"It's insane. It's crazy," he said. "Even the girls in Texas know football. Everybody's mamma knows something about football."

In addition to working at TCU games, the Ranger group does public service work with groups such as the Boys and Girls Clubs of Fort Worth.

To catch a glimpse of Brown on TV, check out the Horned Frogs' Sept. 13 home game against the Ohio State Buckeyes. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. on ABC.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-645-8937.