James Kinsey and Richard Willis are undoubtedly the ultimate fans of Texas Tech University’s football team.
For the past six years, Kinsey, owner of Western Star dealership Lubbock Truck Sales in Lubbock, Tex., has loaned two brand new Western Star trucks each year to the Texas Tech football team and marching band. Used to transport the team’s 40,000 pounds of equipment and the band’s 30,000 pounds of instruments to out of town games, Texas Tech currently runs two decked-out Western Star 4900 EX LowMax trucks.
Willis, owner of Willis Moving and Storage, also in Lubbock, has been driving the Western Star trucks to Texas Tech games for nearly ten years. A former Texas Tech football player, Willis provides the fuel, insurance, an additional driver, and all of the necessary paperwork and authority needed to drive the trucks across the country – at no cost to the university.
“There are about six out of town games a year at schools in every direction, from North Carolina to San Diego and Nebraska,” said Willis. “I am very proud to represent Texas Tech – it’s fun, there was a need, and I’m helping them save money.”
It all started with Willis’ desire to give back to his alma mater. Keeping in touch with the football team over the years, he learned that as their conference was growing they had to travel more often and further distances for games.
Willis was ready to help in any way he could. As the owner of Willis Moving and Storage, a local Mayflower dealer, he had everything he needed to transport the team’s equipment anywhere in the country. A Western Star customer for nearly 17 years, Willis put together one of his Western Star tractors and a Mayflower trailer to get the team on the road.
“I was excited to start driving for Texas Tech but with a mismatched green cab and black trailer, it didn’t represent all of the enthusiasm we have for the team,” said Willis. “So, I decided to contact my long-time Western Star dealer, James Kinsey, to see if he was interested in helping out.”
As an avid Texas Tech fan himself, Kinsey jumped at the chance. Now, for every season, Texas Tech gets two brand new Western Star trucks with eye-catching graphics and matching trailers.
Red Raider pride
Essentially a billboard on wheels, the current Western Star trucks are painted with the school colors of red and jet black with the team name, “Red Raiders,” laser cut and backlit on the custom front bumpers. LED lights line the intake brackets and lower edge of the cab and sleeper and the polished aluminum wheels and fuel tanks with stainless steel bands complete its impressive look.
The matching trailers feature custom red and white flowing stripes on both sides. The football trailer says “Texas Tech Football” along with a logo and large graphic of a Texas Tech football helmet. The band’s trailer displays their motto, “The Goin’ Band from Raiderland,” and a Red Raiders and Texas Tech logo.
“Not only are the trucks an efficient way to transport equipment, but it also creates a level of excitement for the team and fans,” added Kinsey. “The trucks have designated parking spots in front of the Texas Tech stadium so you can’t miss it when coming to a game. They look really impressive.”
The inside of the trucks are also impressive. In addition to several comfort features, Willis’ wife, a fellow Texas Tech graduate who travels with him to each game, decorated the cab and 82-inch Stratosphere sleeper with team décor.
“James spec’d the trucks to keep us comfortable on the road with top of the line options like a dinette sleeper seating package, burl Elmwood dash and cabinets, leather seats, a full gauge package, and factory-installed CB radios,” said Willis. “Plus, the LowMax is low maintenance, reliable, quiet, and has a smooth ride. I couldn’t ask for anything else.”
Part of the community
Currently employing 75 people, James Kinsey’s dealership has been selling Western Star trucks in Lubbock for more than ten years.
“Going to football games is one of the most popular social activities in town and I feel good about giving back to my community,” said Kinsey. “I also get amazing support from the local trucking industry and receive some of my business just because of my involvement with Texas Tech.”
After each football season, Kinsey resells the trucks at a discount to his customers, who mostly consist of Texas Tech alumni. The team and band keep their trailers, but the Western Star trucks sell every year.
“The cost of the trucks is worth it to us when compared to the support we’re giving the team and the business that comes out of it,” added Kinsey. “There is also notoriety with the LowMax – my customers really like it for its sleek look, spaciousness, and good ride. We’ve already placed an order for two more Western Star LowMax trucks for next season.”
With all of the hard work Willis and Kinsey put into their support of the team and band, it certainly isn’t going unnoticed.
“These guys are unbelievable,” said Don Buck, director of the Texas Tech football training facility and operations. “We used to send the team’s equipment with a truck rental company and I was always nervous about it because if anything happened to it or if things weren’t packed correctly, we’d be in big trouble. But now, with our top-of-the-line trucks and with Richard driving, I don’t have to worry about it any more. I can’t imagine doing it without them.”
The team also uses the trucks as a recruiting tool and to send a positive message. “These trucks make a statement – it gives the kids pride and gets people excited. More importantly, it saves us money so we can allocate more funds towards the football program,” added Buck.
Christopher Anderson, director of the Texas Tech band, echoed Buck’s sentiment. “The relationship we have with James and Richard has been nothing but fantastic for us. It’s saved us money, made logistics much easier, and increased the band’s morale. We appreciate everything they do for us.”
Western Star Trucks, headquartered in Redford, Mich., produces heavy-duty custom trucks for long-haul and vocational applications. Western Star is a company of Freightliner LLC. Freightliner LLC is a unit of DaimlerChrysler, the world's leading commercial vehicle manufacturer.