For UT athletes, spirit group membership provides opportunity to connect, give back


Sam Ortega

Senior Myles Onyegbule recently made the switch from tight end to quarterback. Off the field though, Onyegbule was selected to join the Texas Cowboys. He, along with the rest of the all-male spirit organization, helps maintain and operate Smokey, the cannon fired at football games.

Courtney Norris

While student-athletes’ schedules tend to leave little time for activities outside of balancing classes and their respective sports, a few athletes every year join campus spirit and service organizations with the intent of giving back to the community and broadening their own experiences.

Miles Onyegbule, who recently switched from tight end to quarterback, was selected to join Texas Cowboys, an all-male spirit and service organization, by fellow teammates who are already members of the organization. The group also maintains and operates Smokey, the cannon that gets fired off at Longhorn football games.

“It’s kind of a getaway from the limelight of football,” Onyegbule said. “You get to travel around the city and campus doing philanthropy and service events where the pressures are greatly minimized.”

Texas Cowboys is the University-recognized spirit organization

Onyegbule chose to accept his invitation to the Cowboys because he believes the positive impact the organization outweighs the negative connotation it often carries, describing the group members as self-motivated and well-respected.

“Usually, in the beginning, people just think of Cowboys as a party organization, where the [bar] tabs and social events are what we’re all about,” Onyegbule said. “But students quickly realize what we stand for, and that’s giving back in any way we can.”

Charlie Moore, a senior on the men’s swimming and diving team and a Cowboy, recently competed in his last swim meet at Texas as he heads into the fifth year of his degree as part of the McCombs Schools of Business’ MPA program. Moore is excited about the opportunity to mentor the younger members next year.

“I’m looking forward to spending more time talking to the [new members] about moving forward to continue to move our organization in the right direction,” Moore said. “To change that perception of who we are and what we do.”

Moore said he sees similarities in being a member in athletics and in service organizations.

“I think athletics is just as much about contribution to the University as it is [about] self achievement,” Moore said.

M.J. McFarland, a sophomore tight end from El Paso, is the only athlete who is a member of Texas Silver Spurs. McFarland said his experience thus far has been bittersweet, as being an athlete makes it difficult for him to be fully committed and attend all mandatory events, especially with football season approaching.

“Bitter because I couldn’t spend as much time with my fellow Spurs due to my athletic responsibilities,” McFarland said. “Yet sweet because, when I do spend time with them and hangout, it is always a good time.”

Silver Spurs is spirit organization responsible for handling all events involving Bevo, the school mascot.

McFarland said the best part of Spurs is being able to interact with people of all different backgrounds. He said stepping out of his comfort zone and joining as the only athlete has paid off.

“I get the best of both worlds,” McFarland said. “The athlete world and the fraternity world.”

Most of all, as an athlete member of Cowboys and Spurs, you are expected to represent your team by participating in volunteering and philanthropic service events on and off campus.