At a recent Texas Wesleyan University football practice at Scarborough-Handley Field, the heat pounded on the backs of players sweating out dreams of a championship season.
One of the players, Antonio Lopez, had one of the biggest adjustments to his new team. Lopez played previously for the Arkansas State University Querétaro Red Wolves in Mexico; now he is middle linebacker for the Texas Wesleyan Rams.
The Global Clasico football game will start the season for the Rams at 7 p.m. Aug. 27 at Farrington Field, where the team is playing until the new stadium is complete. Through the first international game for the university, the team hopes to build relationships with the community.
Single-game tickets for the 2022 season are now available at ramsports.net/tickets.
Tickets are available for purchase with cash or card at the east ticket booth on game day.
The game is at 7 p.m., Aug. 27 at Farrington Field.
Adults (18 and up): $10
Students (13-18 years old): $5
Children (12 and under): Free
Texas Wesleyan student, faculty and staff: Free with Texas Wesleyan ID
Last year, Lopez started school at the Arkansas State campus in Mexico. His parents then moved to Dallas, and he came to Fort Worth two months ago.
The Querétaro campus is the first American university in Mexico, according to its website. The campus offers degrees that are valid in both countries by teaching curriculum approved by the Higher Learning Commission.
One of Lopez’s biggest hurdles has been the language barrier, but he started learning English at his school in Mexico before he moved, he said.
As he prepared to play his former team, Lopez said in Spanish that he’s nervous but excited to see his friends. He is ready for the challenge of playing in front of the community.
“I just know this part of Fort Worth, near the school,” he said. “It’s really cool. There’s a lot of Hispanic community in this part (of Fort Worth). It’s still hard. It’s completely different.”
A game years in the making
The game almost happened two years ago, Texas Wesleyan head football coach Joe Prud’homme said. He wanted to play an international game, but the pandemic meant the game was canceled.
Football was still shut down in Mexico last season, so the game was, again, moved. Then in January, Prud’homme met with the Querétaro coach Gerardo Antonio Tajonar Garduño at the American Football Coaches Association, and they agreed on a game.
“We want to do a great job for Fort Worth,” Prud’homme said. “I mean, we represent not only the United States but Fort Worth, and I just think it makes it a real special event.”
Once the game was set, Athletic Director Ricky Dotson said, ideas started floating around about how to make the game a big deal not only for the university, but also for the Fort Worth community.
The school is promoting it more than a typical game, partly because of its historical significance, he said.
“It’s certainly the first game in the history of Texas Wesleyan football where we’ve played an international opponent,” Dotson said. “This is a game that’s going to count in our standings. When you see games like this, for the most part, it’s usually an exhibition game. This is not going to be an exhibition game for us. It’s going to be a game that’s going to go on our record.”
With more eyes on the team from the community, Dotson said, the team is preparing for that emphasis in how they practice.
“They’re starting to understand and realize that it’s not just another football game that they’re going to play,” he said. “It’s got some historical significance. It’s got some significance to our community and to the people in Fort Worth, and certainly to the university. They’re taking a little bit more of a focus than they would in a normal game.”
Making Fort Worth proud
During practice at Scarborough-Handley Field, the team is feeling the support from the community in ways it typically does not, offensive lineman Michael Bonner said.
“We’ve never had this much support for a game before,” he said.
His teammate and fellow offensive lineman Michael Willims agreed. He’s never seen so many people involved in the football program at Texas Wesleyan, which brought back its football program in 2016 after a 74-year absence. The energy is exciting for the team, he said.
Fort Worth’s support for the team is special to the players, Bonner said.
And the team is trying to keep that community involvement going strong, even when the clock runs out at the end of the game.
That community involvement and outreach specifically could be for the Hispanic population around Fort Worth.
Texas Wesleyan is a Hispanic-serving Institution, meaning it has a Hispanic student population of at least 25% and it can apply for grants to expand opportunities for Hispanic students. The Hispanic student population at Texas Wesleyan was 29% in January.
According to recent Census data, about 36% of the Fort Worth population is Hispanic, so the team is hoping the game can continue to connect the players to the Hispanic community.
Part of university’s 2025 strategic plan is to develop more community connections, Dotson said.
What does community involvement look like?
According to the strategic plan, “(Texas Wesleyan) will engage in community building with our students, neighbors, alumni, and the private sector to enhance diversity, inclusion, student life, civic responsibility, and economic opportunity empowering our students’ success as well as revitalizing our campus and our neighborhood.”
Read more here.
“We’ve gone to community events, mostly around this area, because there’s a lot of Hispanics, and we try to touch culture,” Williams said. “We’re usually in the shadow of TCU with them being the bigger school, but we’re really on the come up and the community really supports us.”
Prud’homme said the team also visited Dunbar High School, La Gran Plaza and a Back the Blue event.
Michael Rosas, linebacker coach and chief of staff for football, said the community involvement with the team has been a blessing for him as a Hispanic man.
“This was a chance to really bring others out that maybe have something other than football for a reason to be there,” he said. “Whether it’s support for Arkansas State Querétaro or support for the community in and of itself. There’s just a larger avenue to attract and gain support from.”
Rosas still meets people in Fort Worth who do not know Texas Wesleyan has a football team, so the community involvement is important to him, and he hopes it continues, he said.
He enjoys the work at food banks the program participates in, but Rosas really hopes children can meet the players and see themselves going to Texas Wesleyan one day.
Dotson also said more children at a game could mean more future Rams because they see how special the school is and want to be part of it.
“There may be some kid who comes to the game and says, ‘I’d like to be a part of that,’” he said. “So hopefully, that’s one way that it can impact us. The second thing that I think is extremely important, and maybe the most important, is it allows us to just draw a connection to the community.”
Kristen Barton is an education reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at email@example.com. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.