“October 30th, 1965. Homecoming Day. SMU is going to play ‘that school in Austin,’ and my parents had tickets to the game. They didn’t have an extra ticket for me. My parents said they would at least take me to the barbeque, they always had a barbeque on the floor of Moody Coliseum before homecoming.”
Robert Hurst was eight years old on this day in 1965.
“So, I go to the barbeque and they have a drawing for a Mr. Mustang and a Ms. Mustang, and the winner of the drawing would get to go to the game with the cheerleaders in a ’65 Ford Mustang convertible and sit on the sidelines during the entire game.”
Though Hurst never went to school on The Hilltop, October 30th, 1965, is surely one of the days which helped ingrain a deep love for the Mustangs – a love 50 years in the making.
“So, a man by the name of Pierce Allman begins to draw names out of the hat for Mr. Mustang. You had to be present to win, and every name he drew had already left and gone to the game. My mom and dad did not know I had snuck my name into the hat.”
As luck would have it, Hurst probably had the best seat in ‘The House that Doak Built’ to watch SMU demolish the Texas Longhorns, 31-14.
“I’m sitting at the table eating my BBQ and dad said, ‘Well, you’re going to have to go back to the house with your grandma.’ We’re getting ready to go. Sure enough, Mr. Allman says: Robert Hurst. And my mom and dad look at me and say, ‘Did he just say your name?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, he did!'”
Hurst says it is his most memorable day in SMU football history, which is a big statement, considering he and Betsy, his wife of 10 years (SMU Class of ’78), both have strong connections to the university. All four of their parents attended SMU. For both Robert and Betsy, SMU is their team.
Hurst has kept momentos from that magical day in 1965 – the football which came with the title of Mr. Mustang, signed by the likes of SMU great Jerry LeVias and the rest of the ’65 squad, and the homecoming issue of The Mustang, an alumni magazine in which an SMU photographer captured Hurst’s boyish face being kissed by Deborah Padgitt, one of the SMU cheerleaders who took him to the game, for the cover photo.
It’s rare to find a Mustang fan who radiates such a strong love for SMU, especially considering Hurst never studied in Dallas. I found myself becoming a bigger Mustang fan as I sat and talked with he and his wife on a Sunday afternoon in Ford Stadium.
“I never studied here, but I was raised on this school,” Hurst says.
Hurst’s father, I.T. Hurst (Class of ’48), was a SMU cheerleader back in the days when Heisman Trophy winning running back Doak Walker was the show which everyone in Texas came to see. His father owned a red convertable with a blue vinel top which displayed “S.M.U.” on the lisence plates, plates his son still drives around with today.
Though he attended Sam Houston State, Hurst and SMU were always a match made in heaven. He and his wife have seen SMU at its highs and lows.
“I was at the ‘Miracle on Fourth Avenue’ at Texas Tech when Bobby Leach ran all the way. I was in the stadium,” said Betsy. “Never saw anything like that in my life. It was so exciting. You got to be there though, you have to have the drive to be here.”
The memories that Robert and Betsy both share are worth more than the championships SMU has won over the years, which is the reason why both of them wish more fans came to support the Mustangs – so that more memories could be created.
“Get ’em off the Boulevard, get them into the game. That’s the next trick,” says Hurst, “Don’t get me wrong, I think the Boulevard is a great idea, it’s a great tailgate atmosphere. But you got to get those people into the stadium. These guys (the players) are busting their butts off to play a game and support the school, and we need to support them.”
Robert’s love and support for the Mustangs is not only apparent in Ford Stadium, but also on social media, where he touts the handle @MrMustang65 on Twitter and on PonyFans.com. He’s also been known for being a trendsetter in terms of his hashtag game, pushing the nickname #TheIceman for SMU point guard Nic Moore and #TheChairman for new head football coach Chad Morris. #TheChairman, partially because Hurst is a huge Frank Sinatra fan, but also because Hurst see’s the culture change which Morris is establishing as a total overhaul of the SMU brand.
Coincidentally, Robert and Coach Morris met for the first time as the Hurst’s arrived for our interview. Morris and Robert discussed the story behind the ball and the framed picture, and of course, took a picture of their own.
Robert Hurst is the kind of fan we should all aspire to be. That being said, if I was asked to count how many SMU fans that I know of with the same passion and love for the Mustangs, I’m ashamed to say I could count them on one hand. Robert’s loyalty to SMU, a school he didn’t even go to, is unrivaled, and Mr. Mustang sees bright skies on the horizon for SMU.
I asked him the question everyone has been asking: Is Chad Morris the man who will finally turn SMU football around? His words were so profound, I’ve chosen to leave you with them:
“If he’s the guy for the job? I think he is – I truly believe he is. You saw what happened right before we met up with you, for a man to stop and talk to me the way he did when he’s got kids waiting downstairs to conduct a camp, and he takes the time to talk to a person he’s never met, but someone who he realizes is a fan of the program, a fan of the school, and takes time to have a heartfelt one-on-one conversation – the guy gets it. He understands. He knows how to build relationships. He knows how to build an attitude. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s the guy for SMU.”
“I have no doubt in my mind that when I’m sitting in here (Ford Stadium) on September 4th, and watch those guys come out of that tunnel with Chad Morris leading them, that this stadium is going to erupt. I will get chills. Because I know the SMU fans who are in here watching are, number one, his top supporters, like Betsy and me, but number two, are going to be here because they’re ready to see a magic moment happen. And it’s going to happen when he runs out of that tunnel with those guys with him.”