There's something familiar about going home again.
Nearly two dozen members from TCU's 1951 Southwest Conference championship team enjoyed a trip down memory lane Saturday. Marshall Harris, a TCU Hall of Famer and member of the '51 team, organized the 60th reunion that started with breakfast at Dutch's and tailgating at Amon G. Carter Stadium before the Horned Frogs' homecoming game against New Mexico.
As much as this gathering of friends was focused on remembering old times -- several teammates hadn't seen each other in decades -- these men long retired from the gridiron are just as caught up in the present-day Horned Frogs.
TCU is returning to its football roots. Well, pretty close.
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"It feels great," said Alton "Curly" Taylor, all-SWC guard in 1951. "It always felt strange when TCU wasn't allowed to be in the Big 12. Hopefully some other teams that were in the original Southwest Conference will have a chance to return."
Just having Texas, Baylor and Texas Tech return to Fort Worth for conference games is reason enough to grow nostalgic. Then there's Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and who knows who else once the Big 12 figures things out.
"I don't think we'll have the record we've had because they'll be playing a lot tougher competition," said Ray McKown, an all-American in TCU's backfield. "But the coach we have out there now is a jim-dandy. TCU can play with anybody now."
Herb Zimmerman, an all-SWC selection at guard, expects Gary Patterson to keep the winning ways coming.
"They're not going to win like they did in the Mountain West because all of the games, for the most part, are going to be tougher," Zimmerman said. "Gary will do whatever it takes to keep them competitive. He's a great coach."
That fondness for Patterson echoes the admiration and affection they had for legendary TCU coach Dutch Meyer. The grandfather of today's spread formations won his last SWC title with the '51 group and retired after the following season.
"He was a disciplinarian and so trustworthy," Zimmerman said. "You believed what he said. I had tremendous respect for him. He was running the spread offense before the spread offense was ever invented."
McKown, known in those days as the "Dumas Dandy" in a tribute to his hometown, is still amazed the Horned Frogs claimed that SWC title. TCU finished the season 6-5, scoring wins over Nebraska, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Baylor, Rice and SMU.
"The biggest thing I remember is how small we were compared to football players today," McKown said. "We had maybe five or six guys that weighed more than 200 pounds. From a slow start things just kind of worked out. It was a small team that I guess got lucky. We had no business winning the conference that year."
Critical in jump-starting the championship march was a victory over the Aggies that required some late-game trickery.
"That was the defining game in that season," McKown remembered. "We had not practiced an onside kick the whole season and for some reason the week of the A&M game Dutch Meyer had us working on an onside kick, and lo and behold, we ended up using it to beat A&M."
The memories of the 1951 championship have hardly faded in the last 60 years.
"It's still very rewarding to look back over the years," Zimmerman said. "It means a lot for all the guys that played on that team."