Aug 30, 2013
Klein Kubiak joined his Rice teammates as they stepped off their buses and on to the turf at Kyle Field in College Station on Friday, taking in a much quieter venue than will await them when they arrive on Saturday to take on Texas A&M.
While technicians from ESPN continued setting up for Saturday's broadcast and highlights from A&M's magical 2012 season played on the video board, the Owls went through the traditional walk-through routine, familiarizing themselves with the location of play clocks, etc. and taking cell phone photos to tweet to friends and family.
Rice head coach David Bailiff caught him by surprise earlier in the week when he told senior from Strake Jesuit he would be given the honor of serving as a captain in the season opener. Bailiff learned early on how much playing this game meant to Klein and his family.
"It (possibly playing A&M) was something we asked Coach Bailiff about when he came on a home visit when I was being recruited," Kubiak said. "We wanted to know if there was an opportunity to play A&M and at that time, the answer was no. When the game was announced we all were very excited and the first thing I asked my Dad was what color he would wear to the game. I think he said he might wear gray."
Kubiak's earliest memories of Texas A&M and his father's connection to the school centered on trips to College Station when the family was visiting from Denver where Garry was playing with and then coaching for the Broncos.
"My dad would always take us up to College Station and to Northgate. We would get a burger at the Dixie Chicken and then get a haircut upstairs. It became a special family tradition," Kubiak noted.
Later he would come to know of his father's exploits, in particular a record-setting day at Rice Stadium when Gary Kubiak became the first quarterback in Southwest Conference history to throw five touchdowns in a game. The game ball from the Aggies' 51-26 rout in 1981 is proudly displayed in the family home.
It remained for Klein to become an Owl and then have a chance to play against his father's alma mater, before he would learn of a lesser known factoid about the meeting between the two schools the year before.
Research revealed that in 1980, Gary Kubiak started against the Owls at Kyle Field and became the last Aggie quarterback to lose the Owls as Rice ground out a 10-6 victory.
It was news that Klein readily revealed to his father, who professed not to have been aware of the milestone.
"But he definitely remembered the 1981 game," Klein said with a laugh.
On Saturday in front of a national television audience, Klein and the Owls will face a formidable task in Texas A&M, a consensus top seven team in the preseason rankings who will wait for a half before seeing the season debut of Johnny Manziel.
The national storylines have been well-defined for weeks. But the more enduring story will unfold with the coin toss.
On the field, Klein Kubiak will be dressed in the Owls' road whites. Somewhere in the stands, Gary Kubiak (color of shirt not yet determined) will savor the moment with him.
After the Friday walkthrough, father and son spoke by phone about what lie ahead on Saturday.
"He told me to think about the journey I had been on that had led me to this stage", Klein Kubiak said. "From playing Pee Wee football to playing in this game. He said I will look back on tomorrow the rest of my life, but to no make it too big and to have some fun," he added.
"To me, being a captain in any game shows a sense of trust in you and what Coach Bailiff and my teammates think of me. It's a tremendous honor to have been given the chance to be a captain in a big game and on this big of a stage," Kubiak stated.