Well, here we are, the first full week of yet another new year, and I know many of you have made all kinds of resoutions, probably including that you are going to do more for others, be a better friend, right?
I was actually thinking about this very thing when I happened across the story of the Twelfth Man, and today seemed the perfect day to remind ourselves of it…
…It was January 1, 1922, and the then “little ole” Texas Aggie football team was playing the number one team in the nation, Center College, in Dallas, Texas in the Dixie Classic, the forerunner to the Cotton Bowl. I don’t think it is an overstatement to say that the Aggies were fighting for their lives out there on the field that day.
The game was brutal with player after player going down and out of the game. Although Center College suffered its share of the injuries, it was A&M who eventually found itself with only eleven players left standing. One more injury and the game would be over, forfeited by the Aggies.
It was at this point that Aggie coach Dana Bible looked up into the stands, remembering a basketball player who was once a football player, E. King Gill. Bible signaled for Gill who, when asked, hurried to the locker room, donned a suit, and joined the coach on the sidelines.
“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.”
It was enough to inspire everyone associated with a school already steeped in tradition, and today the Twelth Man lives on in Aggie tradition as the student body stands as one in the stands of every game, showing their support and readiness to help when needed.
The tradition also lives on in the hearts of its alumni.
“While in the Air Force in 2002 and at the beginning of the 2nd Gulf War, we had a younger and less experienced man in our unit who was on mobility. He also had a young wife and two young children. In addition he was scheduled to leave the Air Force in about 6 months.
“Needless to say, the deployment would have been difficult for that family. I was older, had the skill set needed for the job, and my kids were grown. My wife and I talked about it and made the decision that I should volunteer to take his place.
“To me, this is what the 12th Man embodies. Not to do the easy thing, but to always do the right thing! I owe that the greatest university in the world! First in Texas! Texas A&M! Gig Em!”
Sometimes all we need is to know that we have a 12th man on our side, just standing there and waiting to run to our side should we need them.
Oh, and by the way, the Aggies did defeat Center College on that long ago day in 1922 by a score of 22-14!