My Gameday Experience in College Station – The 12th Man and Johnny Football Deliver

BY MICHAEL LEESE

The world's longest chest-paint sign

The world’s longest chest-paint sign

The Texas A&M Aggies were hosting Mississippi State for Senior Day,  the last home game of the season.   There was a sellout crowd at Kyle Field and they were there to possibly say goodbye to Heisman winning quarterback Johnny Manziel.    Johnny Football did not disappoint and I am glad I got to see him play in person!  His athleticism and leadership left me shaking my head, as he continually turned nothing into something.  The legacy that Manziel will leave behind includes a Heisman Memorial Trophy and a spotlight on Texas A&M , which has led to a recruiting boom for the Aggies.   Many have speculated that Manziel will forego his junior and senior seasons and enter the NFL draft this fall, so this may have been his last home game.   After the game, Manziel stayed out on the field a long time taking part in photo shoots

The 12th Man is ready to go in

The 12th Man is ready to go in

THE 12TH MAN ……The tradition began in Dallas on January 2, 1922, at the Dixie Classic, the forerunner of the Cotton Bowl Classic. The Aggies played defending national champion Centre College in the first post-season game in the southwest. In this hard-fought game, which produced national publicity, an underdog Aggie team was defeating a team which had allowed fewer than six  points per game. The first half produced so many injuries for the Aggies that Coach D. X. Bible feared he wouldn’t have enough healthy men to finish the game. At that moment, he called into the Aggie section of the stands for E. King Gill, a student who had left football after the regular season to play basketball. Gill was spotting players for a Waco newspaper and was not in football uniform.  He donned the uniform of injured player Heine Weir, and stood on the sidelines to await his turn. Although he did not actually play in the game, his readiness to play symbolized the willingness of all Aggies to support their team to the point of actually entering the game. When the game ended in a 22–14 Aggie victory, Gill was the only man left standing on the sidelines for the Aggies. Gill later said, “I wish I could say that I went in and ran for the winning touchdown, but I did not. I simply stood by in case my team needed me.”

In the 1980’s, the tradition was expanded as coach Jackie Sherrill created the 12th Man squad led by 12th man standout Dean Berry. Composed solely of walk-on (non-scholarship) players, the squad would take the field for special teams’ performances. This squad never allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown. Sherrill’s successor, R. C. Slocum, amended the tradition in the 1990’s to allow one walk-on player, wearing the No. 12 jersey, to take the field for special teams plays. The player is chosen based on the level of determination and hard work shown in practices. Coach Dennis Franchione continued Slocum’s model, while also keeping an all-walk-on kickoff team that played three times in the 2006 season.  After Franchione, coach Sherman further paid homage to the tradition by selecting members of each class to travel with the team, and sit in the stands wearing No.12 jerseys, ready to go in if needed.  At Saturday’s game, the 12th man, walk-on Sam Moeller blocked a punt in the end zone, giving the Aggies a safety and the lead.

Aggie football fans call themselves the 12th Man, meaning they are there to support the 11 players on the field. To further symbolize their, “readiness, desire, and enthusiasm,” the entire student body stands throughout the game.  In a further show of respect, the students step “off the wood” (step off the bleachers onto the concrete) whenever a player is injured or when the band plays the Aggie War Hymn or The Spirit of Aggieland.

THE BONFIRE OF THE AGGIES……The Aggie Bonfire was a long-standing tradition at Texas A&M University as part of a college rivalry with the University of Texas at Austin, known as t.u.by Texas A&M students. For 90 years, Aggie students built and burned a large bonfire on campus each fall. Known within the Aggie community simply as Bonfire, the annual fall event symbolized the students’ “burning desire to beat the hell outta t.u.”The bonfire was traditionally lit around Thanksgiving in conjunction with the festivities surrounding the annual game between the schools.

The first on-campus Aggie Bonfire burned in 1909, and the tradition continued for the next 90 years. For almost two decades, Bonfire was constructed from debris and pieces of wood that Aggies “found,” including lumber intended for a dormitory that students appropriated in 1912. The event became school-sanctioned in 1936, and, for the first time, students were provided with axes, saws, and trucks and pointed towards a grove of dead trees on the edge of town. In the following years the Bonfire became more elaborate, and in 1967 the flames could be seen 25 miles (40 km) away. In 1969, the stack set the world record at 111 feet (30 m) tall.

In 1978, Bonfire shifted to a wedding-cake style, in which upper stacks of logs were

An Aggie family

An Aggie family

wedged on top of lower stacks. The structure was built around a fortified center pole, made from two telephone poles. Although tradition stated that if Bonfire burned through midnight A&M would win the game the next day.  With the introduction of the wedding cake design, Bonfire began to fall very quickly, sometimes burning for only 30 or 45 minutes.

At 2:42 am on November 18, 1999, the partially completed Aggie Bonfire, standing 40 feet (10 m) tall and consisting of about 5000 logs, collapsed during construction.  Of the 58 students and former students working on the stack, 12 were killed and 27 others were injured. On November 25, 1999, the date that Bonfire would have burned, Aggies instead held a vigil and remembrance ceremony. Over 40,000 people, including former President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara, and then-Texas Governor George W. Bush and his wife Laura, lit candles and observed up to two hours of silence at the site of the Bonfire collapse. The Bonfire Memorial was officially dedicated on November 18, 2004.

This tragedy forced the University to eliminate Bonfire on campus, due to insurance liability issues. Since 2002 the bonfire has become a non-university sanctioned event and has burned annually since. Known as Student Bonfire, the off-campus event draws between 8,000 and 15,000 fans. Student Bonfire has many changes strictly for safety purposes.

THE AGGIE BAND……The Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band marches in several formations during halftime at Kyle Field. The Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band (also known as The Noble Men of Kyle or the Aggie Band) is the official marching band of Texas A&M University. Composed of over 400 men and women from the school’s Corps of Cadets, it is the largest military marching band in the world. The complex straight-line maneuvers, performed exclusively to traditional marches, are so complicated and precise that computer marching simulations say they cannot be performed.

Since its inception in 1894, its members eat together, sleep in the same dormitories, and practice up to forty hours per week, on top of a full academic schedule. The Aggie Band performs at all home football games, some away games, and university and Corps functions throughout the year. Other events in which the band has participated include inauguration parades for several Presidents of the United States and governors of  Texas, major annual parades across the country, and the dedication ceremony for the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library.

PRACTICE YELLING……Midnight Yell Practice is a pep-rally usually held the night before a football game. If the football game is to be held at Kyle Field, Midnight Yell takes place the day of the football game at 12:00 a.m.  If the football game is an away game, a yell is held on the Thursday night before at the Corps Arches on the Texas A&M campus, and Midnight Yell will be held in the city the game is being played. For example, the Midnight Yell for the annual game against the University of Texas at Austin is held on the steps of the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas.

HISTORY……Texas A&M claims three national championships. The 1919 team finished 10–0–0 and was undefeated, untied, and unscored upon, earning a retroactive national title by 10 selectors, including the Billingsley Report and National Championship Foundation. The National Championship Foundation has retroactively awarded Notre Dame and Harvard the 1919 National Championship as well. The 1927 team finished 8–0–1, with a tie against TCU in Fort Worth, Texas, earning a retroactive national title by the Sagarin Rating and the Sagarin ELO-Chess. In 1939 the undefeated Aggies were voted No. 1 by the AP Poll shortly after its inception, along with No. 1 in 8 of the 12 other major polls.

MASCOT……..Reveille, a dog is the official mascot of Texas A&M University and is

A&M's smallest fan

A&M’s smallest fan

the highest ranking member of the Corps of Cadets.  When the first Reveille died, she was buried at the north end of Kyle Field so that the score of the Aggie football games was always visible to her. Subsequent Reveilles were buried alongside her.  When construction of the Bernard C. Richardson Zone disrupted the mascot graves, the graves were temporarily moved across the street from the stadium. Following the completion of the addition, an improved graveyard was dedicated directly outside, and a small electronic scoreboard mounted on the Zone so that the score would remain visible. Traditionally, when a current or former Reveille passed away, a military funeral was held at Kyle Field. More than 10,000 people attended the funeral service for Reveille IV. In 2013, Reveille VII, who was retired in May 2008, was given a toned down memorial service at Reed Arena, rather than a funeral service. According to the Commandant of the Corps, as she is a dog, not a person, he did not believe a 21 gun salute or the playing of “Taps” was appropriate, although he had no involvement in the planning of the memorial service. Some fans were displeased with the changes. It was also announced that the bodies of the previous Reveilles will be exhumed as part of the Kyle Field renovations and relocated across the street, similar to what was done in the previous renovations.

HALL OF FAMERS……Texas A&M has 10 players currently in the College Football Hall of fame. Notable players include Dave Elmendorf, Ray Childress, Gene Stallings, and Jack Pardee. The lone Pro Football Hall of Famer is Yale Lary. The Aggies have had two Heisman Trophy winners,John David Crow in 1957 and Johnny Manziel in 2012.

THE GAME……The Aggies jumped out to a quick 16-7 first-quarter lead, and never looked back as Johnny Manziel threw five touchdown passes en route to a 51-41 win over Mississippi State. The win moved the Aggies to 8-2 on the season with hopes of still attaining a BCS berth.  For that to happen, the Aggies will need to win games against LSU and Missouri.

A FEW FUN MANZIEL GAME FACTS……Johnny Manziel set a school career record for total yards with 9,040 and a single-season record with 31 touchdown passes. He became just the second A&M quarterback to run for 2,000 yards in a career, and has 3,313 yards passing this year to become the first Aggie with two 3,000-yard passing seasons.

  • Johnny Manziel has been responsible for at least two  TDs  in 16 straight games, the longest active FBS streak. Nobody else has more than eight straight.
  • Johnny Manziel now has thrown four TD passes in four straight games for the first time in his career. He’s the only SEC QB in the last 10 seasons to do so.
  • Johnny Manziel is the first FBS player this season to throw for five touchdowns and three  interceptions in a game.
  • Johnny Manziel tied his career high with five touchdown passes Saturday, and his passing numbers through 10 games are better than they were in 2012, the year he won the  Heisman Memorial Trophy.

Like going on the road to see other teams stadiums and traditions?  Checkout “My Gameday Experience at,”

Baylor hosting Oklahoma

Arkansas hosting Auburn

North Texas hosting Rice

Air Force hosting Notre Dame

East Carolina hosting Southern Miss

Virginia Tech hosting Pitt

South Carolina hosting Kentucky

Clemson hosting Wake Forest

Coming soon:  Ole Miss, Missouri, Louisville, Michigan, Arizona State, Ohio State, Wisconsin

Want us to come to your school or visit your tailgate?  Just let us know when and where!

Starting Tuesday, we’ll cover the bowl possibilities for several team.

Every Monday, we post bowl projections and make our own pick.    Like us on Facebook to get all of our postings!

Past Picks

  • November 10 – Nebraska in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl
  • November 3 – Miami (FL) in the Chick-fil-A Bowl
  • October 27 – South Carolina in the Cotton Bowl Classic
  • October 20 – Michigan State in the Rose Bowl
 
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