There are moments in all of our lives that, stirred from the chambers of your mind, you don't just remember. You feel.
Despite the domination by the Longhorns toward the end of the Southwest Conference, the Texas-Rice series historically was one of the best in this part of the country.
Dating all the way back to 1914, the year before the SWC was formed, it was a series which featured Hall of Fame coaches such as Jess Neely of Rice and D. X. Bible and Darrell Royal playing chess games for position in league races. Its legends include the greats of the game for both schools. It has had controversy and heated rivalries. For years it was the social event of the fall in Houston and in Austin.
From the beginning, I understood about The Rice Institute, as it was called in those days. My dad had attended Texas for two years and graduated from Rice. My first mother-in-law, a great lady named Margaret Gardner, had been married to Frank Steen. It was Steen who was given credit for an end zone catch in 1937 that Texas fans still swear he trapped to give the Owls a 14-7 victory. Margaret swore--and she did that well, God rest her soul--that Frank never even told her if he did, or didn't catch the pass, and he took his secret to the grave with him a few years ago.
But of all the moments surrounding Rice and Texas and the proud history it once was, my most powerful one does not include a pass, a catch, a run, a tackle or a kick. It concerns a song.
It was an unreal feeling, that night 41 years ago when Rice played Texas in Houston. I can still sense the crowd before the game, and the whispers were not about football. The humidity seemed to hang as it can in Houston, and it almost seems there is a ghostly mist that hangs even now as I think of it.
On the football field, Texas was No. 1. The Longhorns had made sure of that with a dramatic, 7-3 comeback win over Arkansas the week before.
But there was an eery reality that night in Rice Stadium, as 70,000 people stood, their hearts pounding a rhythm, and their voices raised in one, loud song.
Those who were there will tell you that until perhaps the patriotic swell which accompanied the events of 9/11 and the War in Iraq, they had never--before or since--heard the national anthem sung so proudly and defiantly.
Only a week before, Texas had beaten Arkansas with only 36 seconds remaining, and football euphoria reigned in Austin.
Two days later, the real showdown came.
Early in October, when Texas was busy winning football games, the Soviet Union under Nikita Kruschev, and moved 20,000 crack battle troops, 40 intermediate ballistic missiles, and 40 bombers capable of carrying nuclear warheads into Cuba, less than 90 miles from Florida.
On Monday, President Kennedy ordered a blockade of Cuba, and by the time Rice played Texas, the world had edged closer and closer to World War III.
Historians will say that it probably was--at least to our knowledge--the closest the world has come to nuclear war.
Four hundred thousand United States troops were on maximum alert. Weapons of war were loaded aboard ships and planes. Somehow, a football game that risked a No. 1 ranking didn't seem important.
What was important, however, was a nation's pride.
That is why they sang.
The game itself might as well have been played in the Twilight Zone. Rice Stadium had always been a tough place for Texas to play before the recent domination, but that year was beyond comprehension.
In 1961, only a 6-0 loss to TCU had stood between Texas and a national championship.
The 1962 Texas team overcame the death of a player early, and after a win over Oklahoma and the dramatic come-from-behind victory over Arkansas, Texas was ranked No. 1 again. No one gave the Owls much chance, but as would happen often with Neely, he had whipped his boys to a fever pitch to play Texas. The Longhorns never were able to get back up after the incredible "high" from the win over Arkansas. Texas trailed early, 7-0, but scored twice to make it 14-7.
Rice tied it, 14-14, and on a night when nobody appeared to want to be there, that's the way it ended. Texas would go on to an unbeaten regular season and the nation's No. 4 final ranking. Rice would finish the year at 2-6-2, but the tie kept the Longhorns from a national title.
The game was only a brief distraction from the fear of the greater conflict, a conflict that threatened life as we knew it.
But on Sunday--the next day--the Good Guys won.
The Soviet Union relented, and began removing its troops and dismantling the missiles.
President Kennedy gave the order for the United States Armed Forces to stand down.
The danger of the missiles of October was over.
Forty-one years have passed, and this Saturday, Texas will play Rice in the sparkling new Reliant Stadium in Houston. Our world has been touched by tragedy and threats, wars and rumors of wars, since that moment.
Television has brought countless stirring renditions of the Star Spangled Banner to us. I'd say in those years I have probably heard the National Anthem kickoff, tip off or first pitch several thousand events.
But on that October night in Rice Stadium on the campus on South Main in Houston, I really did hear America singing.
That night, you understood what it meant to stand for something.