The Texas A&M Aggies aren’t intimidated by anyone. Their fellow SEC foes are aware of this, and in recent years, the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks have learned it too. As the pro club began to emerge as a power, their fans were celebrated for demonstrating an unwavering devotion. The nickname “12th Man” was brought up time and time again by announcers. The only problem was that the moniker originated in College Station, and the university had been using it since 1922. So, A&M did what any proud institution would: they called the Seahawks out. They were right in doing so, because the Aggies have a history of their very own, and they shouldn’t have to share their traditions.
In addition to staking claim on the name first, the Aggies’ 12th Man fanbase dwarfs the one in Seattle. Kyle Field holds more than 80,000 spectators, and in 2015, even more seats were added so that 102,000 A&M supporters could fit inside. Not only that, but their origin story is way cooler. E. King Gill became the first 12th Man when he leapt from the stands and suited up for a shorthanded Aggies team in 1922. The eleven players on the field held tough and won the game, but the idea that a member of the A&M family would immediately answer the call to assist his school left a lasting impression.
After beginning competitive play in 1905, the school’s football team captured national championships in 1919, 1927 and 1939; they also have 17 titles from the old Southwest Conference and more than 30 bowl appearances to establish their status as bona fide contenders. Hall of Fame coach Paul “Bear” Bryant guided the program for just three seasons, but it was while in College Station that he worked with his only Heisman Trophy winner, 1957’s John David Crow. More than 50 years later, another Aggie would emerge as the game’s top player.
Quarterback Johnny Manziel became the first freshman in NCAA history to snare the Heisman when he took the award in 2012. Known as “Johnny Football” to fans across the country, Manziel racked up 4,600 yards of total offense and accounted for 43 touchdowns. Most essentially, he also led A&M to a BCS Bowl appearance against the vaunted Oklahoma Sooners.
The night before every football game, students gather at Kyle Field to participate in the Midnight Yell. The school’s designated Yell Leaders fire up the crowd and wax poetic about the victory that is sure to come the following day. When A&M fans aren’t howling at the moon, they are giving one another a thumbs-up sign. In College Station, the gesture is shorthand for “Gig ‘Em, Aggies,” a rallying cry that started in 1930 before a contest against the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs.
The Aggies have labored for years to get where they are, and have proven again and again that they won’t be giving up anytime soon.