FORT WORTH, Texas — Davey O'Brien won a Heisman Trophy and a national championship playing there more than seven decades ago. Bob Lilly was a fierce defender and LaDainian Tomlinson set the NCAA single-game rushing record on the same field.
Now there is only one more home game left for TCU at 80-year-old Amon G. Carter Stadium before the campus facility undergoes a major modernizing renovation.
More than 400 former lettermen are expected to mark the last game in the old home when the third-ranked Horned Frogs (10-0, 6-0 Mountain West) play San Diego State (7-2, 4-1) on Saturday. With a win, TCU is guaranteed at least a share of another conference title and stays in contention for a possible national championship shot.
"It's a big week, last (home) game for the seniors, more importantly, an opportunity to get to 11 wins," coach Gary Patterson said. "I watched that Amon Carter video and already get emotional. ... There's just a lot of things that are going into this week."
Many of the former lettermen who will be recognized Saturday never had the kind of success there like O'Brien in 1938 or the current team, which is going for its second consecutive 12-0 regular season after finally becoming a BCS buster last year.
"Just knowing that this place will never look the same, everyone wants to send old Amon Carter Stadium out with a bang," said receiver Curtis Clay, one of 26 seniors on the team.
Regardless of the outcome, there will be a big bang three weeks later when the west grandstand is imploded on Dec. 5.
Work on the $105 million project fully funded by donations will begin after Saturday's game. It is the first major renovation at the stadium since the upper deck was added in 1956. Construction won't be completed until 2012, though the Horned Frogs will still be able to play all their scheduled home games in the stadium next season.
TCU won 40-0 over Arkansas in the stadium's debut in 1930, a year after the Frogs won their first Southwest Conference title and construction of the new stadium was approved.
Dutch Meyer, who coached the Frogs for 19 seasons, and quarterback "Slingin' Sammy" Baugh made their TCU debuts in 1934. Before he was a Pro Football Hall of Fame player, Baugh won 29 games in three seasons for TCU. That remained the school record until this year, when current starter Andy Dalton got his 30th in the season opener.
O'Brien led the nation in passing in 1937 and '38, and the Frogs went 11-0 and won their only AP national title his final season.
Jim Swink, the running back known as the "Rusk Rambler," was a Heisman runner-up in 1955, and Lilly helped the Frogs win two conference titles from 1958-60 before becoming the first-ever draft pick by the Dallas Cowboys.
Tomlinson, now in his 10th NFL season, was the NCAA's leading rusher in 1999 and 2000. He set the NCAA single-game record in November 1999 when he ran for 406 yards, with six touchdowns, in a home game against UTEP.
TCU is 50-6 at home since Patterson was promoted from defensive coordinator to head coach after the 2000 regular season, when Dennis Franchione left for Alabama. The Horned Frogs haven't lost at 44,358-seat Amon G. Carter Stadium in more than three years, with 19 consecutive wins since losing to Utah in October 2007. They haven't lost consecutive home games since 1999.
"There's a lot of ballgames that have made a difference," Patterson said. "I'd probably tell you the feeling we had after the New Mexico game last year, that and the Utah game, when they rushed the field and the fans felt like a part of it."
A stadium-record, standing-room-only crowd of 50,307 attended last November's 55-28 victory against Utah that avenged the Frogs' last home loss in a big way. Two weeks later, two days after Thanksgiving, 41,738 fans were there for a win over New Mexico that wrapped up a perfect regular season and clinched TCU's first BCS berth.
TCU has had three sellouts in its last seven home games. Each of those three is among the five largest crowds in school history.
Another big crowd is expected Saturday, the only one of TCU's four remaining regular-season games that is at home. The Frogs won 47-7 last Saturday at sold-out Utah, where a crowd decked out in black was ready to be loud and disruptive.
"I want someone else this Saturday to have worry about going silent count," Patterson said. "That's how I want the crowd to be. I want it to be so loud that they have to go silent count for the whole four quarters. Amon Carter Stadium, the last game we'll ever play, that would be a goal of mine, how the crowd can be involved."
Along with one more victory for a fitting farewell to the old home.
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company