It’s that time of year again!
Texas A&M’s football season has kicked off and Saturdays are now reserved for watching the Aggies play their hearts out at Kyle Field or on TV if it’s an away game. The university has many traditions that have been organized and carried out throughout the years and one of the most treasured traditions that comes from football is the legacy of “The 12th Man.”
The 12th Man—what the student fan base is collectively known as—is a tradition and that came to be almost 100 years ago. On Jan. 2, 1922, Texas A&M was playing highly ranked Centre College at the Dixie Classic in Dallas. Not only were we losing, but our team was also plagued by multiple injuries that caused head coach Dana X. Bible to remove numerous players and their substitutes from the game. After halftime, Coach Bible noticed that the entire team was down to just 11 players and if just one more player had to be removed from the game, Texas A&M would have to forfeit to Centre College due to the lack of a full team.
It was at this moment that Coach Bible realized he needed a 12th man, someone who could step in and play when needed if another player were to be removed from the game. But Coach Bible was also aware that not every man knows how to play football so he couldn’t just pick a student at random and get ready and put on the uniform. Then, a light bulb flashed over his head and he remembered a current student and former football player who was sitting up in the press box. That student, E. King Gill. Gill, used to play for Coach Bible at Texas A&M but decided to take a break from the sport that season to focus more on basketball and baseball. Coach Bible quickly called Gill from the press box and asked him to suit up and be ready to enter the game. So, Gill wore previously injured Heine Weir’s uniform and stood on the sidelines as the 12th man of the football team.
At the end of the game, Texas A&M miraculously came out victorious against Centre College with a score of 22-14, and Gill never even had to run in to play in the game. However, we still honor him today because he was ready, waiting, and willing to play for his team if they needed him. Gill’s willingness to carry out the Aggie core value of selfless service in the football game, when his team needed him the most, has come to represent Texas A&M’s student section over the years and defines what it means to be a 12th Man.
As a result, whether we win a game or simply run out of time (because Aggies never lose), you can always find the entire student section, rain or shine, standing throughout the game and yelling along with the Yell Leaders in support of our team and our university.
Said best by Texas A&M University itself, “The power of the 12th Man is echoed in the unity, the loyalty, and the willingness of Aggies to serve when called to so. And it is the reason that Texas A&M has earned a name that embraces Gill’s simple gesture of service: Home of the 12th Man.”
It’s hard to believe that I only have two more football seasons as current student before I start attending games as a former student! The legacy of The 12th Man is one of my favorite traditions at Texas A&M and a key factor that drew me to pursue an undergraduate career here all the way from Georgia. The traditions are what makes Texas A&M so unique from other schools, and I always feel so blessed to be a part of the Aggie family and to be able to call College Station home.