Then in his late 30s, Smith was working on an offshore drilling rig in West Africa.
An alumnus of The University of Texas at Austin, he knew his team would be playing Texas A&M University Thanksgiving week, and he wanted to be there to watch.
Already headed home for a break, he made a point to schedule his flights so he could see the game.
Starting in Lagos, Nigeria, he flew to London, Dallas and Austin, where his wife picked him up at the airport. He changed in the car on the way to the stadium, and they arrived just in time for kickoff.
“I probably have won the award for the person to travel” the farthest distance to get here, Smith, 59, of Tyler, said.
The UT alumnus is among many Longhorns and Aggies with memories of football games good and bad played between the schools.
But with A&M's move to the SEC this year, the rivalry that dates back to the first game in 1894 appears to have come to a close.
Although some fans are hopeful for future games between the two, others say they never want to see it again.
But all, regardless of their position recall with nostalgia their experiences in the stands or on the field of the state's two largest universities.
“If you would have asked me the question last year, I would have honestly said I would have had withdrawals,” said Drain, 45, of Tyler, who is director of intercollegiate athletics at Tyler Junior College.
But, he said, with the success A&M football has found in the SEC, he's not feeling the loss.
“I think the reason I don't is Johnny Football and everything that's gone on,” he said referring to A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. “I'm just excited to watch (the) Missouri game, and it really doesn't matter that it's not Texas.”
Wishing for a rematch
“It's a shame that they've finally got a really good team with a really good player, and it would be really exciting to play them,” said Oberg, 37, a financial adviser.
Oberg, who graduated from UT in 1998, said the game between the two schools was always one of the biggest to watch.
Regardless of who had the better season, “You'd always throw the records out as they say,” he said. Anything could happen.
This year his team is playing TCU, a game that Oberg said will be pretty exciting.
“Yeah, we miss A&M, but playing TCU, who's a really good team is not a bad trade off, at least at this point,” Oberg said.
He said the Aggies and Longhorns go with Thanksgiving just like the Cowboys game does.
McCown had quite the experience during his college days at the Thanksgiving week game.
In 1999, McCown threw the game-winning pass to his roommate and best friend, Matt Bumgardner.
“At the moment, it didn't set in,” McCown, 35, said of the meaning of that play. “To say literally the last pass that I threw at Kyle Field, I threw it to my roommate to beat our arch rival for the go-ahead game-winning touchdown. It was neat.”
This year, McCown plans to watch the A&M-Missouri game in the comfort of his home with his wife, Shellie, also an Aggie, and their four children, ages 10, 8, 6, and 4.
He said without UT it will be different for the alumni, the fans and the players.
“I guarantee you every one of those guys, especially those upperclassmen, they'll be playing Missouri, but it won't be the same,” he said. “It'll be different. You can say everybody on that team grew up watching the Aggies and the Longhorns.”
Losing regional rivalries
“Dollars are becoming the rule of (the) college football landscape (and) have divided so many natural regional rivalries,” said Stone, who is co-owner of Stone School of Massage with his wife, Abby.
Although A&M's decision to join the SEC has been a good one in the short-term, it remains to be seen what the outcomes will be in the mid- and long-terms, Stone said.
In-state rivalries benefit from the camaraderie built through living, working and growing up together, Stone said.
With out-of-state schools, the experience is different, he said. However, he said fans from both schools will move on. And he plans to watch Texas play TCU tonight.
“It's not the same as Texas and A&M, it's just not quite on the par, but it's what we're left with,” he said.
Only one rival
As a college student at the same university some 10 years later, the tradition continued and she even traveled to Austin where she stayed with her best friend to watch A&M play there.
“It's something that I'll definitely miss,” Mrs. Jackson said of the game. “I'm really thrilled with the way that the move to the SEC has worked out, but at the same time, this was a pretty major sacrifice in my opinion.”
Mrs. Jackson said her most vivid memory of an A&M-UT game is the 1999 game, which came eight days after the Aggie Bonfire collapsed.
Mrs. Jackson, who was a sophomore then, said the game always had an added electricity to it, but that year it was especially emotional for both sides.
“I think that was really important for us as a school to have that victory for those 12 Aggies who passed away that week,” she said.
This year, Mrs. Jackson plans to watch the A&M-Missouri game from home, but, she said, it won't be the same.
“I always thought if you're a true Aggie, you only had one rival and that's t.u.,” she said referring to UT by its Aggie-given nickname.