Texas Christian University hasn’t claimed a national football championship since before World War II.
Its last was in 1938. Before that was in 1935, when two-time All-American center and captain Darrell Lester helped lead the team.
Lester’s great-granddaughter, Katherine Lester, is now a senior at TCU.
“My grandad’s really proud of that,” Lester said. “He likes to talk about it a lot. He has, like, a whole room in his house that’s just TCU stuff.”
She was there when TCU beat Michigan 51-45 in the Fiesta Bowl New Year’s Eve in a win that surprised fans and the nation alike. With first-year head coach Sonny Dykes and a football team that went unranked last season, one word gets repeated whenever football fans talk about the Horned Frogs — “underdog.”
Now TCU will face the No. 1-ranked University of Georgia Bulldogs in the National Championship in Los Angeles Monday night, and TCU students, alumni and other avid supporters get to root on their local team on an even bigger stage.
Lester said she’s glad the team is entering this new era of success during her final year. She attended the Fiesta Bowl game and is flying to watch the Frogs again in California.
“I’m sure there’s, like, a little bit of doubt in people’s minds,” she said. “But, I mean, the whole season we’ve been saying, ‘we want Georgia,’ and here we are.”
Like many college football fanbases, Lester said tailgating and coordinated purple-and-white outfits are part of TCU students’ gameday traditions.
Then there’s the Hypnotoad, the image of a toad with psychedelic eyes from a Futurama episode that has been co-opted by TCU fans and its athletics department.
“Everyone posts them on their stories, and we all send them to each other, and, like, everyone’s just been really engaged in it this year,” Lester said.
Though the Hypnotoad is often seen as a good luck charm, Geoffrey Mitchell — co-host of the FrogCast podcast — says there’s no magic: this moment has been a long time coming for a hardworking team.
“In 2014, if you ask any TCU fan who should have been in the playoffs, they say: ‘TCU should have been left in the playoffs,’” Mitchell said. “And the argument that Frogs fans would make is they were left out because they’re not a, quote, ‘blueblood program.'”