READY AND WAITING
The 12th Man is a big part of the Aggies’ success at Kyle Field
by Benjamin Dierker '16
The Southeastern Conference is filled with tradition--from the release of the live War Eagle at Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium, to boating the Tennessee River to Neyland Stadium, and even the cacophonous ringing of cowbells at Mississippi State.
But none quite live up to the tradition of the 12th Man at Texas A&M.
Nowhere else in college football will you find a designated student section three decks high with tens of thousands of students resolved to stand through all four quarters.
The idea of a twelfth man was first proposed in reference to fans acting as a figurative extra player, but in 1922 at the Dixie Classic the figurative extra player became a reality.
As the game progressed, the Aggies lost several players to injuries and were eventually reduced to a squad of just 11 players. Coach Dana X Bible requested that student and former player, E. King Gill, suit up from the stands. Gill answered the call and stood ready on the sideline for the remainder of the game.
"I wish I could say that I went in and ran for the winning touchdown, but I did not,” Gill was reported as saying. “I simply stood by in case my team needed me.”
- Ben Malena
The spirit of E. King Gill lives on at Texas A&M as the students stand for the entire game symbolizing their readiness to enter. Ever since Gill stood as the Aggies twelfth man, the student body adopted the attitude and became known as the nationally-recognized 12th Man. With the desire to serve and mindset to affect the outcome, the students impact every game.
“The 12th Man means everything, knowing that you have a crowd like that behind you,” sophomore offensive lineman Mike Matthews said. “When you need it to be loud they are going to be there for you, making noise and making it hard for the other team. They bring so much energy to the games that you can’t help but be excited for the game.”
While recently Texas A&M has been known for its dominance on the football field, the team’s biggest threat is in the stands. The 12th Man is the Aggies’ most intimidating team member, weighing in at 4,500,000 pounds with a voice like thunder. In unison, the 30,000-member 12th Man yells with its 135-decibel voice shaking the stadium.
The volume and intensity of the 12th Man gives Texas A&M the ultimate home field advantage. The Aggies boast a 70.9% all-time winning record at home thanks to the sheer power of the student body. Since the beginning of the 2011 season, disoriented opponents have been charged with 41 false starts on Kyle Field, including 16 already this season.
“Playing in front of the 12th Man, they make it very tough on opposing offenses,” said senior running back Ben Malena. “The 12th Man is an extension of the football team. I don’t think another school in the country has a student body like we do. I can’t stress enough how they always give a helping hand in going out there and beating the hell out of whomever we’re playing.”
For 91 years the 12th Man has attended every game at Kyle Field, increasing in number and ferocity each season. The size of the 12th Man has increased as fast as Kyle Field capacity has allowed. The permanent “Home of the 12th Man” on the east side of Kyle Field was built as a single deck in 1927. The need for expansion was clear and second and third decks for the students were added in 1967 and 1980, respectively. In 2010 the 12th Man came in NCAA student-attendance-record force, numbering 30,647 to help upset the No. 9 Nebraska Cornhuskers.
"I can tell you there is not a better feeling than running out of the tunnel onto Kyle Field in front of the 12th Man,” sophomore Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel said. “Our atmosphere is the very best in the country and our fans are smart and loud.”
Texas A&M and Kyle Field are nationally recognized as one of the most intimidating college football environments and it is undeniably because of the 12th Man. The loyalty of a student body to consistently attend games in such numbers is rare even in top-ranked programs. The 12th Man redefined the idea of a student section.
At Kyle Field, if you’re looking for the student section, all you have to do is listen.
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