In recent years we all have heard a considerable amount of dialog, mostly among politicians, about core values. Last weekend I developed a deeper appreciation and understanding of three values, tradition, pride and institutional love that might best be called “corps” values. My wife and I and another couple attended our first football game at Kyle Field in College Station.
We have heard the lore about Texas A&M University for more than 30 years. The publisher who hired me used to relax listening to tapes of the Aggie Band in his office. His son was a student and a member of the Yell Team. I don’t think our next door neighbors knew that there were any other colors than maroon and white. They seemed to adorn everything they owned and wore in that two-color palette. Their precocious young son who loved to come to our house was fond of telling me with regularity that “Aggies are the toughest.” Tarleton State and Stephenville High School used to have bonfires at homecoming or before a really big game, but everyone in town knew where the idea originated and the annual Aggie Muster in Stephenville was always well attended.
Generally, I would not have a difficult time convincing my wife that we needed to get away for a weekend, but when the purpose of the trip and the major activity was five hours at a football game I knew it was going to be difficult. To my surprise, she was as interested as I was in seeing first hand the regalia and ceremony that we had heard accompanies the sporting activity at an A&M home game. Halloween and Military Appreciation Day promised to add to the festivities.
It may have been Halloween, but there were not any costumes to be seen as we made our way through the campus. Maroon and white were the colors of the day for young and old, male and female from the time we boarded the shuttle that carried us to the Grid until we followed the uniformed Corps marching into the stadium. That tradition and unique ceremony is truly something to see in person. It would be hard to describe the feeling of pride the procession generates for both Aggies and visitors alike unless one has participated in the experience.
The other couple in our party is also originally from out-of-state and it was actually at their invitation that we went to College Station. Robinson is the publisher of the newspaper in Graham and is a University of Texas fan by virtue of the coach of the Graham Steers. The coach is the father of the current Longhorn quarterback, Colt McCoy. The four tickets were donated to the silent auction of the Texas Press Newspaper Foundation and purchased by Robinson last winter. I was impressed as we made our way to the seats; the view was going to be great. Our seating assignment was 18 rows up from the field and on the 30-yard line. With our Landmark Life stadium seats in tow and a beautiful sunny afternoon, we were ready to sit back and watch the game.
The A&M faithful reading this column know what comes next. We didn’t get to sit back and enjoy the game from our way cool seats. There was a reason I didn’t see anyone else carrying in stadium seats. I had heard about the 12th Man and had always figured it was Kyle Field. It is reputed to be one of the noisiest stadiums in college football. Opposing teams call it one of the most intimidating road venues on their schedule. But the entire student body at A&M is the 12th Man and they stand during the entire game.
The tradition reportedly dates back to 1922 during a game with Centre College, the nation’s top ranked team. The Aggies had dug deep into their reserves when Coach Bible remembered a squad man not in uniform. He was called from the stands and suited up, and stood ready throughout the rest of the game. He did not get into the game but stood ready in the event the team needed him. He was the only one left on the sideline when the game ended. Today it is the spirit of readiness for service, incredible support and enthusiasm that demonstrates a deep love of the institution.
Robert Brincefield is vice president and publisher of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Sunday. He may be reached by e-mail at bob.brincefield