Good day and I pray all of you had a very Happy Thanksgiving and got a chance to eat lots of great food — especially turkey. Our family joined with Rep. Bill Flores and his wife Gina along with his son’s family at the Miramont Country Club for an absolutely delicious Thanksgiving meal.
Afterwards we headed over to the Texas A&M University campus for the football game with LSU — really bad call to end the game there, refs. Anyway, we went into the Alumni Center and took a family photo inside the Aggie ring.
But my wife Angela and the girls – including our Chinese exchange student Lin, who flew down from Indiana University — immediately fell in love with the Corps of Cadets Aggie band — we were there for the step off. It’s one thing to see this band on TV but something phenomenal to see them in person — the discipline and precision is impeccable.
Rep. Flores and I linked up with Commandant of the Cadets, BG Ramirez along with his dad and son — who is also an artilleryman, there’s something about being a Redleg! We walked on over into Kyle Field to prepare for the March In of the Corps of Cadets.
As we were walking in, I got a chance to meet a Aggie football legend Charles “Tank” Marshall, former defensive lineman back in the mid 70s — if you know college football you remember these things. He still looks like he could suit up and rush the QB. Not only did I get to meet Aggie stalwart Tank Marshall but also legendary Coach RC Slocum. When Coach Slocum roamed the sidelines it was the venerable “wrecking crew” defense that put fear into the opposition — and he still looks like he could coach the Aggies.Afterwards, we walked onto the hallowed ground of Kyle Field and then took the reviewing stand for the Cadets. Watching these young men and women march in reassures you of the exceptionalism and greatness of America — something I wish we all could have seen, instead of being inundated with the scenes of Ferguson, Missouri. I got to meet the Cadet Commander, an impressive young man seeking a U.S. Marine Corps commission. I’ve been to quite a few college football venues but one thing that is special about Texas A&M is the Aggie tradition — yeah, I got to learn some yells. When the anthems of America and Texas are played, there is quiet and folks sing — and I mean everybody, young and old. As you’re walking around, there is a warmth and welcome as everybody greets you with a happy and hearty “howdy.” This community nestled along the Brazos River embodies a spirit — the 12th Man — and sorry Seattle Seahawk fans, this is where it originated.
According to Aggieland lore, the tradition of the Twelfth Man was born on the second of January 1922, when an underdog Aggie team was playing Centre College, then the nation’s top ranked team. As the hard fought game wore on, and the Aggies dug deeply into their limited reserves, Coach Dana X. Bible remembered a squad man who was not in uniform. He had been up in the press box helping reporters identify players. His name was E. King Gill, and was a former football player who was only playing basketball. Gill was called from the stands, suited up, and stood ready throughout the rest of the game, which A&M finally won 22-14. When the game ended, E. King 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.”
That “12th Man” tradition isn’t just the embodiment of Aggie Football and its campus, it actually reflects America — at least what America should be and must return to being. It reflects an attitude that says, “Here am I, send me.”
E. King Gill didn’t ask Coach Bible, “hey, coach what’s in it for me, or I want to play if I suit up.” Nope, Gill wasn’t focused on himself and his own self-elevation, he was focused on supporting the team. Gill wasn’t looking for adulation or entitlement — he was just stepping into the gap as needed.
I would hope that we all come to embody the 12th Man spirit — it is the essence of who we are as Americans — not this other mess which we’re being fed. It’s not just about cheering. It’s about standing ready to serve.
Come to think about it, perhaps those Minutemen at Lexington and Concord unknowingly started the tradition of the 12th Man as they left the warmth of their homes — just as Gill left that press box — and stood on the line. Perhaps it was the 12th Man spirit and tradition that President John F. Kennedy unknowingly thought of when he said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Just as Gill didn’t ask Coach Bible what he would get — he simply answered the call.
And so as I stood there watching those superb young men and women of the Corps of Cadets march in I saw the 12th Man. I saw the tradition and the spirit of E. King Gill. I saw the next generation who were ready to answer the call of the coach — for them the coach is the American people, our liberty and freedom. As I stood on that field during the game I looked up to see that simple slogan on the stadium “Welcome to Aggieland, Home of the 12th Man.” I finally understood what it meant — America!
So, to wrap up what was a fantastic experience – horrible calls by the referees notwithstanding — I walked down from our seats in the president’s box to meet our 41st president and his wife — yes, George H.W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush. What a stately couple and what was special was when they began to speak Chinese to Lin — something she will never forget. President Bush saw my wings on the lapel and I said yes sir, I was an American paratrooper. He responded, “Allen, I got one more jump to do.” What a guy!
Just gotta tell ya, I cannot wait until Texas A&M and Tennessee begin playing against each other in football — and there is a relationship between these two schools due to our General Bob Neyland. The tradition of the 12th Man along with the service of the Tennessee Volunteers who came to Texas to fight for liberty — well, that is a game I will not be missing. And since we will be moving to Texas, I’ll be back each fall to this special place called Bryan-College Station, known to all in these parts as “Aggieland.”