North Texas Daily

Pop culture influences to and from North Texas

Pop culture influences to and from North Texas

Pop culture influences to and from North Texas
February 10
00:29 2015

Kayleigh Bywater / Staff Writer

Between television shows with a UNT alum as host or a UNT graduate’s album, there are many ways in which UNT has shaped the lives of a wide variety of people across the country.

UNT and its alumni have been making their way into the pop culture spotlight for the past few decades, and the last few months have been no different.

Big screen, small screen

The Comedy Central show Key & Peele mentioned UNT last month in a clip as part of a special Super Bowl episode.

As the players from the East and West introduced themselves, ridiculous names and all, a player toward the end of the skit by the name of “Logjammer D’Baggagecling” said he graduated from North Texas University, an apparent ode to UNT.

Accounting freshman McKenzie Pepper said she watches the show from time to time and was shocked when she heard North Texas University.

“When they mentioned our school on Key & Peele, I was taken by surprise,” Pepper said. “I feel like our school is not always broadcasted out there, but when a nationally recognized show mentions our school, even though it may not be the most serious show, it still gets UNT out there.”

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 Comedians Keegan-Michael Key, left, and Jordan Peel mentioned “North Texas University” on their show, Key & Peele, during the third edition of a sketch titles “East vs. West Bowl.” Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Last December, the campus and surrounding areas went into frenzy when talk show host Ellen DeGeneres announced via Twitter that her show was going to tape a segment at UNT.

Many people, both students and Denton citizens, were confused as to why the talk show host wanted to film on campus, but most were running around campus or blowing up Twitter.

“I was extremely excited when I found out,” entrepreneurship senior Brooke Vlahos said. “I personally love Ellen and all that she does. My friends and I instantly planned to go.”

Although Ellen herself did not venture to campus, the Library Mall was full of people from all over dressed up as Christmas decorations and presents hoping to be seen on air.

Students are also able to listen to guest speakers who come from shows themselves, including speaker Laverne Cox, who is visiting Feb. 24. Cox is a transgender actress and LGBTQ advocate from the Netflix-original “Orange is the New Black.”

UNT alumni have gone on to host their own shows or work in the movie industry.

Dr. Phil McGraw, who graduated from UNT with an M.A. in experimental psychology and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, has hosted his self-help talk show, Dr. Phil, since 2002.

Melissa Rycroft, who was on a controversial season of “The Bachelor” and won “Dancing with the Stars: All Stars” graduated with a degree in marketing from UNT.

Actor Peter Weller graduated from UNT with a B.A. in theatre. Weller is known for his roles in “Robocop” (1987) and “Robocop 2” (1990) as well as “Star Trek Into Darkness” (2013). He has also directed eleven episodes of the television show “Sons of Anarchy.”

Musical talent on campus

UNT has welcomed many artists and bands to campus for performances and guest appearances.

Last spring at the UPC Spring Concert, rappers J. Cole and Bas along with indie-rock band Best Coast performed in the Coliseum.

On Feb. 5, Grammy winner Bobby McFerrin visited the UNT College of Music to sing with the UNT jazz choir.

At this year’s Grammy awards, North Texas artist Lecrae won for Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance or Song and John Congleton, producer for St. Vincent, won the award for Best Alternative Album.   

Associate Dean of Operations for the UNT College of Music Jon Nelson said he feels UNT provides a welcoming atmosphere for artists and visitors.

“We have been fortunate to attract good speakers and performers to UNT,” Nelson said. “I feel that these people participate in opportunities like this for a variety of reasons including being at a location where they feel they will be received warmly as well as more mundane reasons such as places that will provide the fee that they desire.”

Nine-time Grammy award winning singer and songwriter Norah Jones majored in jazz piano. Eagles drummer and solo artist Don Henley also attended UNT and resided in Bruce Hall.

The Eli Young Band also started its career at UNT. James Young, Chris Thompson, Mike Eli and Jon Jones formed the country band on campus as part of the music program.

Sports frenzy

UNT has also been called home by countless sports superstars.

Lance Dunbar, running back for the Dallas Cowboys, started at UNT in 2008, where he broke school records in both total rushing yards and touchdowns.

Dunbar was signed as a free agent for the Cowboys in the spring of 2012.

NBA player Tony Mitchell started with UNT in 2011 as a freshman. He began his NBA career with the Detroit Pistons as a power forward, but just recently signed with the Athleticos de San German in Puerto Rico on Feb. 5.

One of the most recognized athletes from UNT is Charles Edward Greene, better known as “Mean Joe” Greene. Greene led the UNT football team to a 23-5-1 record during his three seasons, and went on to be selected by the Pittsburg Steelers in the 1969 NFL Draft.

“It did not take me long to catch up to the speed of the NFL and the size of the players,” Greene said. “UNT made it very easy to make the transition because the challenges I faced in the NFL are the same things I was taught to conquer at UNT.”

From meeting his wife Agnes at UNT to starting an NFL career from his accomplishments on the campus, Greene has received the honors of being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and winning the Super Bowl four times.

“My time at UNT was wonderful and I would not want to change a second of my time there for anything,” Greene said. “I had so many inspiring coaches that prepared my technique in a very special way, and the campus was like I was at home.”

Prepare for the future

Although alumni and visitors have been able to make it big in the entertainment industry, Nelson said there is nothing stopping present UNT students from reaching that level.

“Being successful means determination, motivation and creativity,” Nelson said. “But, I feel that individuals should follow their dreams. Even though the path may not be easy nor will it always take you where you expected, you deserve to be true to yourself by pushing yourself and seeing what you are capable of doing, no matter the circumstances.”

Featured Image: Photos of famed UNT alumni “Mean Joe” Greene are displayed throughout campus and in both Fouts and Apogee Field. Photo by Devin Dakota

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