Bulldog Express Leaves Lasting Impressions

June 14, 2013

FRESNO, Calif. - Last week head football coach Tim DeRuyter toured the Valley in the Bulldog Express, sponsored by 940 AM ESPN Radio and Paul Evert's RV Country, engaging fans and sparking excitement for the upcoming 2013 season.

Along the way DeRuyter interacted with the Red Wave in informal atmospheres at the different stops. The laid back environment allowed fans to get a glimpse of what the coach is like off the field. It also gave DeRuyter a chance to see the passion that the Red Wave has for the 'Dogs.

That passion and enthusiasm was magnified in the stop out at Paso Robles when DeRuyter met Air Force Master Sargent Daniel Rodriguez, who had driven 85 miles from Vandenberg Air Force base to meet him. Rodriguez grew up in the Fresno area and has two sisters that graduated from Fresno State. He has traveled to Bulldog football games all across the country - 30 to be exact - since 2001 and that does not include the number of games he has seen in Bulldog Stadium.

After meeting the coach, Sargent Rodriguez recently took time to share his experiences with GoBulldogs.com. Here is his story in his own words:

I cannot say enough how much of an honor it was to meet Coach DeRuyter and members of his staff last week during your road tour to Paso Robles! The short 85 mile drive was a small investment for the opportunity to visit with Coach DeRuyter and share some of my personal experiences with Fresno State football.

It's actually a little interesting how I began following the Bulldogs. As I mentioned, both of my sisters are Fresno State Alumni, but that's not the reason why. In June of 2001 I was deployed to Saudi Arabia where I met and worked with a Michigan Wolverine fan named Griffin. As we got acquainted, he quickly picked up on the fact that that I was from the Fresno area. At the time, Fresno State was gaining national recognition and moving up in the polls. Griffin would tease me about the strength of our schedule and how we're "nobody" - all in good fun. So, I finally got tired of not having any ammo and began following Fresno State from the Middle East. It made our time in the deployed environment less stressful and it seemed to go by much quicker. Most importantly, it made me proud to be from the Valley and so I had officially declared myself a Bulldog fan!

I returned back from my deployment in early December of that year, and my first order of business was to go home on leave to purchase tickets to the Silicon Valley Classic. We played Michigan State that year and walked away with an upsetting loss. Despite the loss, David Carr and our receiver (Rodney Wright) had an impressive game!

In the summer of 2002, I was re-assigned from Offutt AFB, Neb. to Keesler AFB, Miss. It was during that time that I began gearing up for the upcoming football season as I reviewed our football team's away schedule. I immediately noticed the Boise State game and planned a trip back in the direction from which I just came, so that I could cheer on our Bulldogs on the road. I was confident that our young freshman QB (Paul Pinegar) would make them pay for handing us our first loss during the previous season. I was wrong. Our defeat was worse than the first one. It was indeed a long and disappointing flight back to Mississippi. The other three road games I attended that season were against Rice, LA Tech and the bowl game against Georgia Tech - all were great victories!

My time in the south lasted through the spring of 2005, where I had the opportunity to travel to many Fresno State road games. In 2003, I had my first BCS-opponent road game experiences against Tennessee and Oklahoma - we lost both games, but the atmospheres were incredible! I also made the trips to the SMU and UTEP games that season. The following year (2004) I made the trip to Kansas State to support the Bulldogs on what turned out to be a dominating victory! I also went back to LA Tech and Rice to cheer on the 'Dogs.

After my time in Mississippi, I was stationed in San Jose, Calif. (2005-07). The only place better in terms of Bulldog football would be Fresno! My first road game of the 2005 season was a disappointing loss in Eugene, Ore. Looking ahead at our schedule, I was absolutely certain this was OUR year to beat Boise State - I was right! I was so glad to be a part of that crowd! A week and a half later, I made trip to the Coliseum to watch Reggie Bush (not USC) beat us in a brawl. My final road trip of 2005 was when I made a last minute decision to watch ONE MORE Bulldog game against Nevada. My brother and I made the cold seven-and-a-half hour icy drive to Reno to watch an upset. 2006 is a season I would rather like to forget. We went 0-3 in the road games that I traveled to: Washington, LSU, and San Jose State (although Spartan Stadium was only 17 miles from where I lived at the time).

In the late summer of 2007, I began my second tour at Offutt AFB, Neb. (2007-11) - just in time for football. In 2007, I traveled to College Station for a close game against Texas A&M. I also came back home on leave for the Kansas State game. The following season I went on the road with our Bulldogs to Rutgers and Toledo. This was the same year (2008) I had the pleasure of meeting Coach Pat Hill, Coach Mike Batesole and the baseball team during the College World Series! In 2009, I hit the road for the Wisconsin, Cincinnati and Illinois games. Although we went 1-2 in these games, they were all very competitive! My two boys and I had a second opportunity to meet Coach Hill during our Wisconsin trip. I only made two road trips in 2010 - Utah State and Ole Miss.

In August 2011, we were re-assigned to Vandenberg AFB, Calif. Due to the uncertainty of my new job responsibilities I did not purchase season tickets, but I did manage to still make it to all the home games. However, I didn't wait until our home opener to see Derek Carr in action. I made the trip to Candlestick Park for our opener against Cal. Then, I turned around the following week and flew BACK to Nebraska - the state I had moved from just five weeks prior.

Last year I became a season ticket holder and my road game list consisted of Tulsa and New Mexico.

This year, I look forward to beating Boise State, another conference championship and traveling to Colorado and hopefully Hawai'i!

I hope that you have enjoyed reading about my Bulldog experiences as much as I have enjoyed sharing them.

GO DOGS!!!!!

"Discover Fresno State Football" - 2013 Fresno State football season tickets are now on sale and can be ordered online at gobulldogs.com or over the phone at 559-278-DOGS (3647).