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Eyes on Texas: Peter Gardere’s 4-0 mark against Oklahoma makes him a Hall of Honor shoo-in

Gardere has been longtime friends with Sooner great Charles Thompson, but there’s nothing friendly about this week

Crimson-colored alarms went off in Oklahoma earlier this week when Charles Thompson revealed he was friendly with Texas ex Peter Gardere.

Well, they’re more than friends, it turns out. Thompson, the one-time Oklahoma star quarterback, was the officiant of Peter the Great’s wedding in 2017, for heaven’s sake. 

Did anyone bother telling Linda, Gardere's wife and a former diving standout at Iowa State, how she was plunging headfirst into the Texas-OU rivalry?

“He was very poised,” Gardere said this week. “I was more nervous. I told him just make it quick. No longer than 15 minutes — that’s one quarter.”

Does this Cyclone take this Longhorn, who just happened to go 4-0 against the Sooners from 1989-92, to be your lawfully wedded husband? Speak now, or forever hold your peace.

“Peter Gardere and I are best buds,” Thompson told me this week. “I said, Peter, you’re lucky I got in trouble and made a stupid bonehead decision in my life or that 4-0 would’ve been 2-2.”

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Thompson was, shall we say, preoccupied with, um, legal matters when 1989 started. But as of now, he plans on being in Austin next weekend when Gardere gets inducted into the Texas Athletics Hall of Honor.

Texas quarterback Peter Gardere throws a pass during the 1989 Oklahoma game, a 28-24 upset of the 15th-ranked Sooners. Gardere, who will be inducted into UT's Hall of Honor next week, went 4-0 against OU as Texas' starter.

The Hall of Honor ceremony normally brings out all sorts of Longhorn glitterati. This year will be a power-packed presentation as the classes of 2020 and 2021 will be honored together. The pandemic forced last year’s postponement.

Some of these 24 names are eye-popping. Football fans will notice Gardere, David Thomas, Jamaal Charles and Jordan Shipley. Mike Adams, too. D.J. Augustin and P.J. Tucker will be inducted along with former men’s basketball coach Tom Penders. 

“I’m hoping he has some really cool burnt orange Nikes that are over the top,” Gardere said of Tucker.

Courtney Okolo is sprinting straight into the Hall along with dead-eye shooter Heather Schreiber-Stark and volleyball standouts Bailey Webster and Nikki Busch Zigler — a Southwest Conference champion in her own right, same as Gardere.

The ceremony is Oct. 15 at 7 p.m. inside the LBJ Auditorium and Conference Center. Tickets are $25. 

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Gardere was on my call sheet for next week, but who are we kidding? It’s Texas-OU week. The commercial real estate specialist set aside zoning regulations and square footage requirements to talk about Johnny Walker, the Cash brothers, Lovell Pinkney, Adams and those four upset victories.

Even at 52, Gardere still has instant recall of the Cotton Bowl atmosphere.

Somewhere, Bubba Jacques probably still wishes he’d have thrown the ball into the stands after that scoop-and-score in 1991. It’d have been a penalty but legendary.

“Any time you hear that Oklahoma’s on or its OU week, the Fair and everything else, of course it brings back so many good memories,” Gardere said. “It’s just a lot of fun, going to the game, the Fair, it’s just a great experience.”

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The Cotton Bowl in the late ’80s or early ’90s was totally different than it is now. Start with the tunnel. Today’s players are spoiled. Used to be, Texas players ran through the south end zone portal with Oklahoma fans able to yell, throw, spit or pour just about anything on the Horns’ heads. 

It has been nearly 20 years since his last game as a Longhorn, but former Texas quarterback Peter Gardere can still remember what playing in the annual Texas-Oklahoma game at the Cotton Bowl feels and sounds like. "Now, it’s a bigger game," he said. "Usually the one who wins this moves on to the Big 12 championship.”

Now, stadium operators raise tarps so players can’t even see the fans until they run onto the field. It’s a far cry from … “how bad we had it?” Gardere said with a laugh.

“It’s such a good feeling coming out of that tunnel,” he said. “When you have the tarp, I guess that’s protection from ice, beer and whatever else you get thrown at you. But to come out and see both sides, it’s just incredible. You get hurt, you go in tents now.”

Can we dispense with the idea this is “just another game,” as the current Horns want us to believe?

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“No, it’s not. It’s a big deal,” Gardere said. “Now, it’s a bigger game. Usually the one who wins this moves on to the Big 12 championship.”

So who’s got any advantage this week? No. 23 Texas (4-1, 2-0 Big 12) has regrouped after losing to Arkansas four weeks ago. No. 5 Oklahoma (5-0, 2-0) is undefeated, but it hasn’t been easy. Sooners fans have even been booing quarterback Spencer Rattler.

“There’s definitely more pressure on OU right now than Texas at this point,” Gardere said. “The rankings, as a player you don’t want that to come into play, but you don’t stop thinking about it.”

Gardere and Thompson became friends while playing in the Canadian Football League. “Just stayed real close,” he said. 

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Gardere heard all about Thompson’s son Kendal following in dad’s footsteps to play quarterback at Oklahoma. And Gardere has known Texas' Casey Thompson practically his entire life. 

“I like what I’ve seen,” Gardere said. “They’re starting to jell. Having some injuries on the offensive line, that’ll hurt. Obviously, I was rooting for Casey.” Gardere said he couldn’t really understand why Thompson didn’t start the season opener against Louisiana, even though “of course you’re going to play two quarterbacks.”

Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian congratulates quarterback Casey Thompson after Thompson's touchdown pass during the win over Texas Tech on Sept. 25. Thompson is 3-0 so far as the Longhorns' starter.

“Why not just start Casey and see what happens?” Gardere said. “I was disappointed to see that, but I think it’s worked out well for Casey. It’s good to see they didn’t play their best last week (against TCU) but hung in there and got a win, and that’s all that counts.”

Gardere got four consecutive victories against the Sooners. There was a window where somebody could’ve broken that record, with Texas and OU both possibly getting to a Big 12 title game. But the Horns and Sooners won’t meet in future SEC championship games when they move into that league.

So Gardere’s record is safe for eternity, it would seem. “Every record is meant to be broken,” he said.

Once Gardere goes into the Hall of Honor next week, his Texas legacy will be protected forever, too.

Contact Brian Davis by phone or text at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com or @BDavisAAS.

Saturday's game

23-Texas vs. 5-Oklahoma, 11 a.m., ABC, 104.9