‘I’m just glad we’re playing football’

Even during a pandemic, Longhorn superfan Scott Wilson continues his 43-year attendance streak.

Nicole Stuessy

Scott Wilson hasn’t missed a Texas football game in 43 years.

In his first semester at UT, he was at the 1969 Texas vs. Arkansas game — known to fans as “the game of the century.” In 2006, he flew out to California with a friend and saw Vince Young bring Texas its fourth national championship.

For 526 consecutive home and away games, the 68 year old Austin native has been in the stands, cheering on his favorite team.

“I don’t know that there’s been another fan for UT that’s done that,” Wilson said. “There’s none that I know of.”

Despite warnings from Austin Public Health officials, over 15,000 fans gathered at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium Saturday for the season opener against UT-El Paso. Wilson wore a burnt orange mask.

Texas Athletics initially planned to operate the stadium at 50% capacity, but Athletic Director Chris Del Conte lowered it to a 25% limit, according to an email sent to season ticket holders Aug. 16. At either limit, Wilson said claiming his season tickets was never a question.

“I’m glad we’re trying to play (football) in the fall,” Wilson said. “It was a relief and it was a good game to watch.”

Earlier this month, Texas Athletics announced tailgates would not be permitted at football games, a usual hallmark of Wilson’s game day routine.

Any other season, Wilson would start tailgating early in the morning. Throughout the day, people would stop by his spot in a parking garage at the corner of East 17th Street and Trinity Street, bring food and sit around in lawn chairs.

“It’s not extravagant, like some people are,” Wilson said.

Wilson still drove up to the stadium early Saturday morning in his ‘75 orange and white Cadillac DeVille with horns on the hood, just to let everyone know he was there.

Social distancing signage, hand sanitizer stations and no halftime show marked a few changes to Wilson’s game day experience. He likes the Longhorn Band — he was a member himself from ‘69 to ‘72 — but can get past their absence and other alterations if there’s still a game.

“If that’s what we’ve got to do, we’ve got to do it,” Wilson said. “I’m just glad we’re playing football.”

He misses the people, though. Out of his tailgating group, Wilson was the only one to get tickets this season. His spare tickets go to his sister, brother-in-law and a different friend depending on the game.

2020-09-13_scott_wilson_caddy_Jack
Jack Myer

Since the late ‘90s, Wilson has had the same seats along the southwest goal line: section 2, row 39. Over the years, they have befriended other fans in section 2.

“There’s a man in front of us that we’ve watched his little girl grow up, and then another lady in front of us (that) we’ve watched her grandchildren grow up,” his sister Nancy Wilson said. “We see them through the season, and then we don’t see them until next year.”

As Texas moves forward with fall football, the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences both delayed their football seasons to the spring. Had the Big 12 followed suit, Wilson would have had to choose between attending football or baseball games — where his attendance streak sits at 1,246.

Baseball is his favorite sport. He knows the players, parents, coaches and umpires, season after season. His seat at UFCU Disch–Falk Field is marked with a plaque with his name on it to commemorate reaching 1,000 straight games in 2016.

At away games, he’s sometimes the only fan to greet the team getting off the bus.

“Baseball is kind of a more intimate thing,” Wilson said.

Wilson’s UT loyalty goes beyond football and baseball. He attends it all: swim meets, tennis matches and golf tournaments. Before Friday’s soccer game, he hadn’t been to a sporting event since the last baseball game on March 11.

Nancy said the break from sports was difficult for him.

“So much of his life was attending sports and visiting with all the people in each sport that he knows,” she said.

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Jack Myer

During the break from his normal schedule of over 200 UT sporting events each year, Wilson kept busy organizing his floor-to-ceiling gallery of sports memorabilia in his North Austin home. His collection ranges from a foul poll from the old baseball stadium to a plaque signed with a personal note from baseball legend Roger Clemens.

“A lot of people will say it’s a little museum, and I worked on the museum some,” Wilson said.

He still kept in touch with the baseball team. Nancy said he received calls from old and current players seeing how he is doing throughout the pandemic.

“The University and the baseball team, that is his family,” she said. “Those phone calls reiterate that it’s not just an acquaintance, but really a friend who’s checking on him.

Austin native Gerald Adair said he met Wilson at a UT baseball game in 1982 and has been friends with him since. The duo has traveled to numerous away games and to Omaha for the College World Series over the years.

Adair once had a 52-year streak attending home football games, but he stayed home on Saturday. At 79 years old, he did not want to risk his health going to a large gathering.

Instead, he sat in his EZ recliner and tuned in to Longhorn Network from his living room.

“I’ve spent a lot of time going to football games,” Adair said. “That hurt me a little bit, but I wanted to just be safe.”

Depending on how the first few games go, Adair said he would consider asking Wilson for his extra ticket.

The fate of the season remains up in the air, but as long as there are games in person, Wilson said he will be there.

“I’m not going to give up a 43 year streak of football,” he said.