Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Real 12th Man Wears Maroon and White

12th Man Statue
E. King Gill stands ready

Now that Johnny Football and his 12th Man have ended their college football season, and done quite well, thank you very much, the Super Bowl-bound Seattle Seahawks and their version of the 12th Man are getting lots of air time. My son, who was raised amid Aggie traditions, knows all about the original 12th Man and was a bit miffed that Seattle didn’t bother to come up with their own identifying characteristic, as he pointed out on his Facebook page: “ Seattle Seahawks are lame; com up with your own nickname. There is only one 12th Man and we all know where they are from!”

Well, if you are from Texas you probably know that the 12th Man is the embodiment of the spirit of Aggieland, that is, Texas A&M University, but there might be those of you not from Texas and perhaps from Seattle who don’t know the story of the first 12th Man.

E. King Gill

January, 1922; the underdog Aggies were playing the nation’s top-ranked Centre College team and were losing players to injury at an alarming rate. Coach Dana X. Bible sent for E. King Gill, a player who had not been practicing with the team in order to focus on basketball, who was identifying players for reporters in the press box. Gill suited up and stood ready if his team needed him. At the end of the game, which the Aggies managed to win 22-14, Gill was the only man left standing on the A&M sidelines. Later, he said, “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.”

Since the 1940s the A&M student body has stood during the entire game to support their team.

And as Paul Harvey used to say, “And now you know the rest of the story.”





Jim Lee said...

According to Wikipedia, A&M settled their court case with the Seahawks and agreed to license the use of the phrase for $5,000 a year. A&M owns the rights, but it's obviously become a commonly used term and many other NFL teams have used it in the past. I like A&M but I think Aggies get a little over-sensitive about the use of the phrase.

Alice Liles said...

You are correct, Jim, about the Seahawks' deal to use the phrase. In fact, the news story on MSN about the deal prompted my blog about the 12th Man in general. I'm sure to the rest of the world the Aggies' claim to the 12th Man seems too possessive, but as you may or may not know, tradition is the backbone of A&M's identity, and the 12th Man is one of those important traditions. So naturally, we don't think we are over-possessive at all! Thanks for reading. Check back in my archives for an earlier story on A&M, "Where Does Your Team Play?"