Once inseparable, twins are divided by Cotton Bowl

ARLINGTON -- Fraternal twins Lee and Laura Simmons did almost everything together from the day they were born until 2004, when they graduated from Martin High School.

Then Lee, having settled on his college plans at about the time he learned to walk, went off to Texas A&M University. Laura, who didn't decide until her senior year, headed north to Norman and the University of Oklahoma.

Tonight, they'll do something they have never done together: attend an Aggies-Sooners game. They'll watch from a suite at Cowboys Stadium as the former Big 12 South rivals battle in the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic.

The Heisman-winning heroics of Johnny Football have won even Laura's heart, but the 1965 Justin boots decorated in Sooners colors that she will wear leave no doubt about which team she'll cheer for.

"Any other game, I'd root for the Aggies," she said this week when she and her brother met up for some good-natured pregame trash talk. "I guess they're my second-favorite team."

The 26-year-old siblings are one example of area families dealing with split allegiances for tonight's game. Cotton Bowl officials expect about 90,000 fans to attend the game -- 85,000 seated and 5,000 standing. The record crowd for the bowl is 88,175, set in 2009, the last year the game took place in Dallas.

These two schools, with their passionate fan bases, are a valuable asset to the city's tourism efforts, said Jay Burress, the outgoing president and CEO of Experience Arlington, formerly the Arlington Convention & Visitors Bureau.

"It's great for hotels, restaurants and even retail, like convenience stores, where people will stop for things they need for tailgating," he said. "The Cotton Bowl had done a tremendous job positioning itself as one of the top bowls this year. Arlington will get more good exposure from the prime-time game."

Naturally, not everybody who wants to go to the game can find a ticket within budget.

A standing-room pass Thursday evening was $145 on, and prices only went up from there. Field suites were going for just under $15,000.

If it sounds like a hot ticket, that's because it is, officials said.

"We're sold out, and it's a hard sellout -- one of the toughest tickets to get," Cotton Bowl Chairman Tommy Bain said. "We feel like this matchup is really the second-best matchup in the nation [this] postseason, behind the national championship game."

Jennifer and Chadwick Jones of Arlington are among those who will likely watch from home.

Normally they are a quiet churchgoing couple focused on raising their two young children. But mention the game, and the ribbing starts instantly, with Chadwick, an Aggie, and Jennifer, a Sooner, debating which team colors their newborn girl will wear. Eventually they decide that Camden will be neutral.

"That's the great thing about these two teams: They have the same color," Jennifer says.

No matter who wins this game or future ones between the schools, they will always bring back a cherished memory.

When the teams met in November 2010, Chadwick was fired up, and not just because the Aggies, in a surprise to him, were winning easily. He had bigger plans: a proposal of marriage.

"During dinner Jennifer kept asking me to check my phone for score updates," he said. "However, when doing so I had tons of texts with people who knew what I had planned that evening asking if I had done it yet."

The Aggies went on to victory, and so did Chadwick.

"To my surprise it was Jennifer who would get her mind taken off the poor performance of her team," he said. "Everyone ended up happy that evening and the Aggies added to the memory for me. Now, each time OU and A&M play, we relive that memorable night."

Not so with the Simmonses, who visited each other's campus several times a year during college but never caught a game together. Their familial allegiances to the two schools run deep. Their mother, Susan Simmons, was born in Norman to parents who had met at OU. Their father, Rusty Simmons, was in the A&M Corps of Cadets for a year and had a dog named Sarge when he met his future wife.

Now Lee lives in Fort Worth and works as a petroleum landman. Laura lives in Dallas and works for a technology firm.

They'll meet in the middle, in their hometown, for what is expected to be one of the most exciting bowl games of the season.

Staff writer Jarrett Johnson contributed to this report.

Patrick M. Walker,


Twitter: @patrickmwalker1

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