On Saturday, Zachary Hedrick and Alex Judd will meet at Cotton Bowl Stadium for one of the biggest rivalry games of the college football season. While the team captains study offensive plays and rally the defense to hold the line, Hedrick and Judd will lead the Oklahoma University Pride Band and the University of Texas Longhorn Band through the crowds amassed at the Texas State Fair and into a stadium awash with crimson and burnt orange.
For the next few hours, Hedrick, of Oklahoma University, and Judd, of the University of Texas, will be responsible for keeping their half of the 92,000-strong crowd energized and rallied around their team until cannon fire announces the end of the game. The pressure is intense, especially for the rivalry game played before a national television audience.
But there is no place either man would rather be. Their sense of duty to their fellow band members, directors and schools inspires them to be the kind of leaders they would want to follow. Both men draw their leadership styles from a shared faith that leads them to encourage and inspire others.
"I hold myself to a very high standard," said Judd, a junior political communications major. "I have a responsibility with the talents and strengths that I have been given to set an example and make people ask questions."
Hedrick's genuine sense of humility about his leadership position exemplifies his faith.
"I make it a point to put The Pride first before myself," he said, referring to the OU band by its official name.
Taking a cue from his fellow percussionists, who inscribe the number of a player on their left arms before each game, Hedrick, a journalism major, writes "Phil. 4:13" on his arm. It serves as a reminder that he does not do anything on his own.
He needed such a reminder in the days approaching the first football game of the 2011 season--his first game as drum major. He knew the routine, he had practiced the famous strut, and yet he couldn't help but worry he might mess up.
During a Pride student and faculty leadership retreat earlier that year, Band Director Brian Britt asked everyone to list fears about the upcoming season on a slip of paper and turn it in. Although the submissions were anonymous, Hedrick suspects Britt somehow knew which paper was his. On it he noted his feelings of inadequacy, his concern about not being able to live up to the standard set by previous drum majors.
Before the first game, Britt sent Hedrick a note. It read "God is for you," with the word "for" underlined. "Direct your fears to your preparation and you will succeed."
On the note, Britt listed Deut. 31:6, Phil. 4:13, Eph. 2:10, and Heb. 13:6.
Britt's final words of encouragement just before the fledgling drum major took the field were not as spiritual but no less poignant, "Go out there and have fun today" he told Hedrick.
From the first day Judd stepped on the UT campus, he knew he wanted to be drum major.
"It's serving people, encouraging them. That's something I wanted to be," he said.
But first he had to pass the audition to join band.
Judd, 20, tried out with scores of other Longhorn Band wannabes the fall of 2010 but failed to make the final cut in the mellophone, the marching French Horn, ranks. He found out after the fact that some of the section leaders championed his cause and asked the directors to include him on the roster. The directors agreed but since they had filled all of the mellophone positions, they asked Judd to march with a tuba.
They gave no explicit instructions to do anything beyond march with the instrument. But, never wanting to do anything halfway, Judd learned to play the tuba and the next year became a section leader.
"He took it on with great enthusiasm," Dr. Robert Carnochan, Longhorn Band director, said. "Alex was a rising star from his first year."
Hedrick and Judd strive to live up to the vote of confidence their bandmates placed in them during the drum major selection process.. The two have never met but share a common tactic in developing their leadership skills - both have made it a goal to memorize the names of each band member. That's 294 for Hedrick and 386 for Judd.
Judd sees each band member as a life for him to inspire. Believing God has him in this role for a reason, Judd uses the opportunity to live out his passion - investing in the lives of others. That, he said, has been his biggest blessing.
Both drum majors hail from Texas. Hedrick graduated from Keller High School, northeast of Ft. Worth, and Judd from Friendswood's Clear Brook High School, near Houston. Although Hedrick considers himself a Texan, his heart belongs to OU. As a senior, he would like to see a blowout Saturday. But as an aspiring sports reporter, he has to be realistic. He predicts a back-and-forth contest with OU taking the win, 35-28.
Judd, of course, disagrees.
"I think Texas is on the rise," he said. "The game will likely be close at halftime but the Texas run game will dominate in the second half." The final? Texas 42. Oklahoma 31.
The competition at halftime, when the bands take the field, is sure to be much closer.