The Big House, Camp Randall and Death Valley. For college football fans, the images these names convey is pretty clear.

There’s really nothing like a college football Saturday, with the abundance of school colors, getting together with old friends on a crisp fall afternoon, and settling into a stadium with 100,000 other raucous fans to take in an exciting football game.

And the optical industry will be well-represented this fall at games from Florida to Oregon and all across the Midwest and Southwest when executives return to their alma maters for a weekend like none other. Even if you’re not a college football fan, the stories we’ve rounded up for this VMail Weekend feature offer a collage of things we in the industry do when we’re kicking back over a weekend.

But along with the long family histories and ties to our universities, another of the great things about college football is the traditions and history that have been passed down over the years. Do you know the story behind the “12th Man” at Texas A&M? It goes back to 1922 and an Aggie “squad” player by the name of E. King Gill. Read more about his story and why 38,000 A&M students typically stand throughout the game here.

At Clemson, traditions run deep, also, with Tiger Rag, The Hill and Howard’s Rock (read their history here). I get goosebumps just thinking about spending a Saturday afternoon in Death Valley.

After collecting these stories from across the industry, we now realize that a side benefit of putting together this roundup is the go-to list of ticket connections now added to my contacts. So, yes, Bret Davis of Acuity Eyecare, I know Ohio State is playing that big game this year in the Happy Valley home of Penn State, but I’ll be in touch next fall when the Nittany Lions travel to The Horseshoe in late November for another key Big Ten showdown with the Buckeyes.

Notre Dame Stadium, the Golden Dome and Touchdown Jesus are college football landmarks that I want to visit. So, Keith Cross of PPG, I’ve checked my schedule and it looks like I am available Oct. 12, 2019, when USC travels to South Bend. You have my number, right?

Yes, the 2018 college football season is officially under way with some of the top teams opening their seasons this weekend. (Admission: my team, Penn State, begins as usual with a cupcake game that just about guarantees a 1-0 start.) For everyone else, Go Blue, On Wisconsin, and Gig ‘Em Aggies, as I’ll be chanting some day when I visit Kyle Field with my new friends at Essilor, John Walborn and Josh Sievers.

Jeff Duncan shows some Cowboy spirit.
Jeff Duncan
EVP and Chief Operating Officer, Vision Source

Oklahoma State fans are enjoying an era of sustained excellence under the leadership of Mike Gundy, a former Cowboy QB and alum. OSU has the 10th highest winning percentage of all major college programs over the past decade and is one of only six schools that won 10 games each of the past three seasons.

I'm a proud second-generation alum who was lucky to be a freshman during Barry Sanders' historic Heisman Trophy season. I also endured the worst season (0-10-1) in school history my senior year. Although a winning football tradition has been established at OSU, we don't take it for granted, knowing how quickly things can change.

Most importantly, the Duncan family is looking forward to making more great football memories with family and friends this season.

Go Pokes!

John Walborn
President Wholesale Business, Essilor of America

John Walborn’s children, Cason and
Jordyn, at an Aggies game. 
Jordyn and Cason Walborn at the Sawin Varsity’s
Horns Off monument at Kyle Field. 

A new era is starting in Aggieland with Jimbo Fisher now leading Texas A&M as its new head coach. Expectations are high, but we know it will take some time for us to be counted among the elite teams in the Southeastern Conference (SEC)!

That said, it is always great to be an Aggie, and no better time can be had than spending time with friends and family before, during and after Aggie football games. Most games we enjoy with the company of three generations of Aggies (soon to be four generations next year)!

What’s not to like? We have some of the best facilities in the country, Kyle Field, of course and some of the greatest traditions. How about spending the day with, oh, 112,000 of the greatest fans in college football, the “12th Man,” as Aggies know it.

Each game begins with the Corps of Cadets march, a tradition in which the cadets work their way through campus in formation, from the quad all the way to Kyle Field led by the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band. Ending with all 112,000 fans Sawin' Varsity's Horns Off! There is just not many atmospheres quite like Game Day in College Station.
Here is to wishin' everyone a great 2018 college football season!
Gig'em Aggies!!!!

Eric Anderson
CEO, Acuity Eyecare Group

Max Anderson and his dad, Eric, at
The Big House in Ann Arbor.

I went to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Met my wife there. Got married on campus. My brother was on the faculty for 25 years. I’ve been a season ticket holder for 28 years—through good times and bad … and my youngest son, Max, (shown in photo) just started as a freshman at Ohio State?

Life is full of surprises.

Scott Jens, OD
CEO, Rev360

(L to R) Cheryl, Blake, Bryn, Shay
and Scott Jens at a Badger Band
pre-game party at the
University’s Union South. 
Cheryl and Scott Jens on the shore of Madison’s Lake Mendota. 

I grew up as a Wisconsin Badger. During undergraduate years at the University of Wisconsin in the 1980s, we celebrated our hockey championships. But beginning in the 1990s, football and basketball became prime-time in Madison. The Wisconsin Badger football team became the most under-rated, great football team that a fan could wish for … from the Ron Dayne years with Rose Bowl wins, to J.J. Watt and last January’s Orange Bowl win over Miami, our family has seen it all.

As season ticket holders at Camp Randall, the home of “Jump Around” and the greatest game day in the nation, we enjoy game days with family and friends. But we also hit bowl games from coast to coast. Both my wife, Cheryl, and I attended UW and our two oldest have as well, with one still in high school. There is nothing that holds us back from Badger games—not freezing cold, nor snow, nor traveling far distances. Because for the Jens family, the Badger experience is a family experience!

On Wisconsin!

John Ferris (r) awaiting kickoff at Ohio Stadium.
John Ferris,
General Manager, U.S. Vision Care,
Bausch + Lomb

My favorite college football team is the Ohio State Buckeyes. I expect them to overcome adversity in the offseason and to make the college football playoff in 2018. My favorite tradition as a fan is the annual end-of-season rivalry game vs. Michigan on Thanksgiving weekend. This matchup often is described as the greatest rivalry in college football, if not all of sports. I’ve attended the game as a student, took my father to this game for his 70th birthday and this year I will be taking my son.
Go Bucks!

Bart Welch
Director, Key Accounts, Luxottica Wholesale North America

Bentley Welch always wears his Tiger uniform every Saturday.The Welch Family tailgating. L to R Vicki, Karli and Bart.Karli Welch (a senior at Clemson), with dad Bart Welch.

This is my favorite time of year. Starting each Saturday, driving down I-85 with my wife, Vicki, picking up our favorite Clemson senior (Karli Welch, my daughter), heading over to Lot #5 and setting up multiple tailgates in the parking lot with my fellow Tiger friends, all of whom are decked out in orange and purple. Going to my seats, four rows back on the 45-yard line (sometimes I feel I can speak directly to the coaching staff), and then watching the most exciting 25 seconds in college football when Clemson’s players rub Howard’s Rock and run down “The Hill” at Clemson Memorial Stadium.

The feeling and the excitement that 85,000 fans create in “Death Valley,” as the stadium is more popularly known, is truly a magical moment.

Tiger fans have been blessed the past three years with one of the best football programs and coaches the NCAA has ever seen. Legacies are being built with the solid foundation of being “ALL IN.” This is an exciting time for all Tiger fans and I have no doubt Dabo will coach our team to the post season once again and the Welch family will be there every step of the way.

The beauty of football is that it brings people from all walks of life together and that is always GREAT thing… Sports Illustrated said it best about the Tigers – “Consider the National Championship CRUSHED with the best D-Line ever” Here’s to another NATTY…..

C-L-E-M-S-O-N…….. Go Tigers !!!!

Bret Davis (l) with Ohio State coach
Urban Meyer and Bret’s son, Connor.
Bret Davis
Vice President Corporate Development,
Acuity Eyecare Group

There is nothing that will get your heart pounding, adrenaline rushing and hairs standing on end, like a cool fall Ohio day, with the sounds of The Ohio State marching band filling the air and The Ohio State Buckeyes taking the field. I have been a Buckeyes football fan since high school and have enjoyed their success over many years.

My passion for Ohio State grew when our family friend of 30-plus years, Urban Meyer, became head football coach and delivered a National Championship to Columbus in 2014. Two years later, my brother Billy Davis, accepted a position on the Buckeyes defensive staff as linebacker coach, after 26 successful years in the NFL. When a family member becomes part of a team you were already loyal to, the level of excitement and passion become unmeasurable.

I am confident the Buckeyes will enjoy another Big 10 Championship, college playoff run and, of course, once again beat Michigan!

This photo is of my youngest son, Connor, with Coach Meyer and me, and it was taken last year in his office while we discussed football strategies and I talked to coach Meyer about the importance of eye health and annual exams for him, his players and his staff.

Keith M. Cross, R.D.O.
Director of Sales, The Americas/ANZ
& Global Rx Technologies
Optical Monomers and Coatings

Keith Cross with Notre Dame
coach Brian Kelly. 
For a Boston guy, these “Shamrock Series”
helmets are not a keeper. 

Notre Dame Football 2018! The Irish open up against the University of Michigan in Notre Dame Stadium—under the lights for a prime time opener for both schools! I guess we’ll see pretty quickly what type of team Notre Dame will have for the 2018 season. It doesn’t get any better than this—the ability to test your team right away against a bitter rival—and one they haven’t played against in four years. I just love the chance to make a statement in Week 1 and a win in Week 1 will certainly help keep Notre Dame in the BCS discussions as the season progresses.

For Notre Dame the goal is and always has been—undefeated National Champions! That’s my prediction—at least before a single down is played…

The other item for discussion the last several years with Notre Dame football is the “Shamrock Series Game” uniforms. This year, the Irish are playing this game against Syracuse in Yankee Stadium. The uniforms for the game are “inspired by” the New York Yankees—complete with pinstripes and a cursive “Notre Dame” logo in Yankee font. Although I get “it”—for a Boston guy I just can’t seem to get behind these uniforms—thankfully it is just for one game….

GO IRISH Beat Michigan!

The view of Kyle Field from Josh Sievers' seats.
Josh Sievers
Corporate Communications Director, Essilor

There's no way I'd rather spend a Saturday than with 100,000 of my closest friends within the confines of Kyle Field to watch the Texas A&M Aggies play football. Having spent seven years of my life at Texas A&M (I attended for both undergrad and grad school, so it's not as bad as it sounds), the school and my experiences there hold a very special place in my heart.

Traditions run deep at Texas A&M, and there's no better day to experience those traditions than a Saturday in the fall. From the 40,000 students standing the entire game, to the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band, to the yell leaders, to the 12th Man, to the Aggie War Hymn, there's no experience like a Texas A&M football game.

I've had season tickets for several years now, and I make as many games as I can. Playing in the SEC West, I get to watch my team play powerhouses like Auburn, Alabama and LSU every year. SEC football is on another level, but SEC tailgating is in a different atmosphere. If you ever have the chance to experience SEC football (and tailgating), you should, and there's no better place to do it than College Station.

See you there. Gig 'em.

Bryan Hoban
Member Business Advisor Team Manager
Professional Eye Care Associates of America (PECAA)

Bryan Hoban is looking forward to his daughter Brooklyn’s first Ducks game. 

It’s September in Oregon…which means our short summer is over and the rain will soon be back. But it also means that it is once again time for Oregon Duck Football! After attending my first game in 2007 at Autzen Stadium, I was hooked. I can’t wait for this year to begin, as the Mario Cristobal (the Ducks new head coach) era is ushered in.

Without a pro football team in Oregon, college football is a big deal here and a Duck game on a fall afternoon is as good as it gets. The tailgating scene is fantastic. While we might not have the great BBQ that you’ll find at an SEC game…we do have all the great Oregon microbrews! Autzen stadium is one of the loudest you’ll find in the country, and is an awesome place to watch a game.

The Ducks will be a little young this year, particularly in the secondary and at wide receiver, but return a solid O-Line and some key defensive players. And a guy you’ll be hearing about in the Heisman Trophy conversation, quarterback Justin Herbert, might be a star in the making. I’m looking forward to bringing my daughter to her first game against San Jose State and then a road trip to see the Ducks take on Washington State in the Palouse.

(L to R) The DeVuono family, Tally, Rich, Lora and
Raymond DeVuono at the 2006 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
Lora DeVuono
Chief Marketing Officer, Acuity Eyecare Group

It was a beautiful, brisk day in January 2006 when my most exciting and most memorable college football moment took place. Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., was filled to the brim with more than 76,000 eager fans who had come to watch the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl and witness Ohio State’s sensational 34-20 victory over Notre Dame.

My role at the game was to represent the Frito Lay team on the field and give a short speech as I awarded the trophy to the winning team. It was an amazing game ... but I was almost too nervous to enjoy it. I was thrilled and scared to death all at the same time. My husband and kids cheered me on as I somehow made my way down onto the field.

With adrenaline pumping, crowds screaming and amidst sheer chaos—sweaty players, tears of joy, and lots of Gatorade—I delivered the speech and presented the trophy, and then breathed a HUGE sigh of relief. It was a lifetime experience I will always cherish ... and remember forever.

Colleen Mulder
VP of Marketing Blue Sky Vision

No game day is complete without a tailgate as the Mulder family demonstrates here. (L to R) are Colleen Mulder,
Max Mulder and Stephen Mulder. 
(L to R) Colleen Mulder, Marybeth Susnak, Stephen Mulder and Joe Susnak take in a game at Michigan Stadium. 

In the great state of Michigan, we are privileged to have two universities with incredible football teams and true-blue fans. The traditions run deep, the rivalry is high-spirited, and yet we all respect and admire both Michigan and Michigan State fans. Coaches Harbaugh and Dantonio are truly two of the preeminent coaches in the sport of college football today. As a member of the Blue Sky Vision team, it’s serendipitous for me to be a Michigan fan bleeding blue!

This tradition runs deep in our family, including long-standing season football tickets and phenomenal tailgate parties that my son’s college friends brag about to family members after every filet mignon and morel mushroom grilling event!

While I did not attend U of M, my son begins his senior year next week as a fourth generation Wolverine. We are extremely excited to be traveling as a family to South Bend this weekend to witness the resurrected rivalry between the Fighting Irish and the Michigan Wolverines that began in 1887, but has not occurred since 2014.

Go Blue!

Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown.
Christian Correa
Marketing Coordinator, Jobson Optical Group

It’s that time of the year. The summer ends and college football season begins. Everyone gets to wear their gold and blue and cheer for our Mountaineers while tailgating at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, W.Va. College football is not only a big deal in Morgantown, but it’s huge throughout the entire state! No other state has more pride in its college football team than “Almost Heaven, West Virginia.” One of my favorite traditions is singing “Country Roads” at the stadium with 60,000 Mountaineers after a victory. With strong seasons in 2018, Heisman Trophy favorite Will Grier and ESPN’s Top 20 player David Sills will ensure that Mountaineers fans are singing this anthem after every home game this year.

Cheers, Beers, Mountaineers.

Alysia Gradney (l) and wife Tieranny Gradney
(University of Houston, Class of 2003)
showing their Cougar colors.
Alysia Gradney
Senior Director - Digital Marketing & PR
Vision Source

The essence of college football is a pure love of school, history and team. Sadly, my beloved Spelman College doesn't have collegiate sports. So I have fallen in love with my wife's Cougar Pride and have become a University of Houston football fan.

Every year Cougar football creates legends while adding to an echoing legacy that transcends the halls of the campus. Houston's home team is ready to release its cage rage and showcase why we are #HoustonStrong. I'm ready to wear my red & white while shouting #GoCoogs.

If you haven't heard we have Ed Oliver who was recently named the nation’s top player by ESPN. Who's House? Coogs House!!!!!

Kathryn Leal (l) and Karly Jones show their
support for the Kats of Sam Houston State.
Kathryn Leal
Legal Assistant, Vision Source

Every year at Sam Houston State University (SHSU) our football season starts with students getting pumped up for the Orange-out game where everyone who attends wears orange to support our Bearkats team. Besides the Orange-out game, every year all students and SHSU alumni mark their calendars to attend the “Battle of the Piney Woods” against Stephen F. Austin (SFA). If you are not from SFA or SHSU, SFA is our rival and you would be amazed by how many students from both schools attend to support their teams and see who wins the "battle."

In 2017, we won for the sixth year in a row, 63-28. When attending these games, you recognize that SHSU has strong individual players and it is incredible to see our players come together to form an amazing team that excite their fans with their remarkable plays and impressive sportsmanship. This year on Oct. 6, you can be sure that we will be taking home the seventh win in a row.

Eat 'Em Up Kats!!!!