FORT WORTH — Fort Worth showed its pride in a big way this weekend.
Downtown buildings were lit up in TCU purple for the second straight night. It seems like the entire city is celebrating the Horned Frogs' Rose Bowl championship.
The victorious team touched down Sunday afternoon at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. A short time later, players and coaches were accorded a heroic homecoming by thousands of fans on the TCU campus.
This undefeated Frogs are suddenly an underdog no more.
"We just love this," said one woman waiting to cheer the team. "This has never happened before in Fort Worth; we're so proud of TCU!"
It was a moment few have waited longer for than Dolores Oelfke, a loyal fan for more than a quarter of a century.
"Hell, i wouldn't be any place else!" she said.
Players and coach Gary Patterson made a point of walking through the crowd, shaking hands and signing autographs.
"This program has been on the rise and been on the rise for so many years," said quarterback Andy Dalton. "We proved a point, and so it's what we sought out to do."
For TCU, the Rose Bowl isn't just any win. Many view it as the moment when the small school from Cowtown entered the big leagues.
"TCU has had to take the back seat for so many years," said fan Ruth Welch. "We didn't get respect, and now that we have finally gotten to the Rose Bowl, if they don't respect us now, it's because they're jealous!"
In 2012, the private school with an enrollment of 9,000 jumps to the Big East conference, joining the likes of Syracuse and West Virginia. It will be a new challenge for coach Patterson, who joked that he's ready to get home and start working on next season.
"You won't be happy with me if I don't get back up there again," he said.
But for now, Fort Worth pauses to celebrate a new legacy.
"We played the game and we showed them," Welch said. "And now it's time to party! Absolutely!"
There's a lot of talk about how — or if — Fort Worth should recognize the Rose Bowl champs. There were no formal plans Sunday, but city leaders may discuss ideas as early as Monday.
North Texans are snapping up Rose Bowl championship T-shirts and other gear, including the same cap the team sported on the field in Pasadena. Academy Sports started selling the gear on Sunday.
TCU's Web site also has commemorative items for sale, including cups and mugs.