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December 12, 2012

Kingsbury's arrival a pivotal moment

Two hours after Texas Tech athletics director Kirby Hocutt released a seven-second video on Twitter featuring him and brand new head football coach Kliff Kingsbury, an intercom inside the executive terminal of the Lubbock International Airport blared out a pilot's announcement that he had reached the outer marker.

The airport lights shimmered on a cold mid-December evening and the West Texas wind was present as always. The anticipation was rising.

This Red Raider legend was moments away from being introduced himself as the 15th head football coach in the university's history.

The plane touched down on the runway way off in the distance and the jets roared one final time. Its lights blinked on the way in as a final countdown. One minute, maybe three minutes until the student would return as the master of Red Raider football.

Even for the veterans on the beat, this will be remembered as a big moment in their careers.

The engines turned off and the plane rolled about five more feet. The pilot undid the door.

The university's chancellor, Kent Hance, came out first. Then Hocutt. Then Kingsbury, who then walked up to the media gathering for a quick interview before a formal introduction Friday.

"It's a whirlwind, but I couldn't be happier, beyond ecstatic, to be back," the head coach said. "It feels like home."

Before the plane touched down some of the assembled media started talking about what they were doing the last time Kingsbury was a Red Raider.

The youngest people there had been in middle school. Another reporter thought he'd be the only one Kingsbury would recognize. A fourth reporter said he was doing what he's doing now.

It's been a long time, but in ways it seems like just yesterday.

Kingsbury isn't all that far removed from his playing days. At 33, he is now the youngest head coach of a BCS program in the country.

With that number, 33, comes all the hopes, all the excitement and all the fears about this homegrown solution.

"Kliff has had a tremendous career," Hocutt said. "He's had immediate success as a college football coach and his ties to Texas Tech were important to us. He's been on the radar screen for the past number of years. He's been working for a great head coach in Kevin Sumlin who I had the chance to get to know and work with at the University of Oklahoma. Obviously Coach Sumlin has had great success. Kliff is going to be a great head coach for the Red Raiders and we're excited about that."

Because of what Kingsbury did at Tech and all the great things you've heard about him since that time, there's no better comparison than it's like meeting your automatically cool older cousin after a long hiatus. Even if you're older than him.

The way he carried and delivered himself was a breath of fresh air.

He was just Kliff. A guy who could still very easily get mistaken for a graduate student. And there's really no comparison between him and the other coaches in the program's history.

"About mid-Saturday things started happening and we just went from there," Kingsbury said. "It was a lot of stress, but it's where I want to be. It's where I wanted to be and to be back in Lubbock and at Texas Tech means the world to me."

How long did it take Kingsbury to come to the decision when Hocutt offered him the job?

"About five seconds," the new head coach said.

Of course, Kingsbury is leaving a great quarterback behind in Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel -- the first freshman ever to win the Heisman Trophy.

"If it was any other school there would have been (hesitation)," Kingsbury said. "He understands. He knows how I feel about him, he's as good a player as I've ever seen, and probably the fiercest competitor I've ever been around so it was definitely hard. But this is where I belong and where I want to be."

Kingsbury will spend some time Thursday in College Station to say goodbye to Manziel and the rest of his team. His status for the Aggies' Cotton Bowl game against Oklahoma is uncertain but doubtful.

But like the head coach said, it's been a whirlwind. He did not have any definitive answers about what his coaching staff will look like, the pass to run ratio and he admitted he's going to have to learn about Tech's current recruiting class.

Even with time of the essence though, Wednesday was a night to celebrate instead of focusing on the X's and O's. Kingsbury got his first head coaching job at his dream school and Red Raider fans everywhere got their guy.

"Red Raiders are all Red Raiders," Kingsbury said. "We should all be pulling in the same direction and that's what I want and I know it's time to do that again. We're a proud group and it's time to get that thing back on track."


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