On Sept. 12, 1962, roughly 40,000 spectators packed into Rice Stadium to watch a moment in history. Unlike a typical event at the venue, the audience wasn’t there to watch the Owls partake in a football; but rather, to witness a speech delivered by President John F. Kennedy.
In that speech, President Kennedy uttered the famous words, “We choose to go to the moon,” which came to fruition seven years later when the Apollo 11 made its lunar landing. Exactly before issuing those seven words, Kennedy made an allusion to Rice Owls football with the line, “Why does Rice play Texas?”
Now, Rice is commemorating the anniversary of this speech on the gridiron. This Saturday, almost 60 years to the date of Kennedy’s remarks, the Owls chose to go the moon with their uniforms. They will be decked out in full space-themed uniforms, named the “Artemis 1” in their Week 2 home opener matchup against McNeese State of the FCS.
“These uniforms are awesome,” tight end Jack Bradley said. “There’s a lot of history behind it which I think is really cool — not only at the stadium, but just with the city of Houston. Space exploration in our country — it’s really cool to be apart of this and be apart of the uniform that represents that.”
We choose to go to the Moon and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard!#GoOwls x #Artemis1@NASA | @NASA_Johnson | @RiceUniversity | @RiceAlumni | @HoustonTX | @adidasUS | @UNISWAG pic.twitter.com/OqADRgZ8Xt— Rice Football (@RiceFootball) September 6, 2022
The “Artemis 1” nickname for the uniforms stems from the name of the upcoming NASA lunar-orbiting mission which is set to launch as early as Sept. 19 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Head coach Mike Bloomgren delivered his Tuesday press conference adjacent to a model of the Artemis 1 uniform, explaining the significance of each detail in the uniform.
Several details of the complex uniform include:
- Excerpts of the text of Kennedy’s 1962 speech emblazoned on the shoulder sleeves
- The geo-coordinates of Rice Stadium on the collar
- HOU.TX as the nameplate on the back, due to the city of Houston’s connection with NASA’s space missions
- A special edition Rice space logo on the back, featuring six stars representing six successful Apollo lunar missions, as well as a seventh star to represent future missions to Mars
- A white uniform with an American flag on the front shoulder, inspired by NASA spacesuit designs
- Gold accents and nameplates representing gold foil used on lunar landing equipment
- The 713 Houston-area zip code on the helmet bumper
- A helmet stripe which represents the flight path from Earth to the moon
“As a kid that loved NASA growing up, I think it’s really, really cool,” Bloomgren said while explaining the intricacies of the uniform. “We will look good. Our stadium will look great as we made these changes to the stadium in the offseason... and our kids were pretty excited about this swag that they’ll get to wear.”
The model in the image above is outside linebacker Josh Pearcy, who was selected as the team’s special teams captain this season.
“It was a great opportunity,” Pearcy said on being the face of the uniform unveiling. “When they asked me to do it, no questions asked, I was down to do it. Anything that helps this program grow — it’s a great new look, a new fresh look, exactly what we need going into Week 2.”
Rice joins the growing trend of space-themed uniforms across college football. Other teams to unveil similar uniforms in recent history include UCF (which does it on an annual basis), Purdue, and Air Force.
The Owls’ Artemis 1 uniforms will be on full display at Rice Stadium this Saturday at 6:30 p.m. CT, and the game will be broadcast on ESPN3.