Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Who Was the 12th Man?

E. King Gill (photo courtesy
of Texas A&M).
Have you ever heard of the football term the “12th Man?”  We hadn’t, that is until we came to Aggie Land (officially known as College Station, Texas).  The term 12th Man was coined at Texas A&M in 1922 and is used to describe the fans during football games. The rules of football allow a maximum of eleven players per team on the playing field at one time, but the fans (or 12th Man) can have a profound influence on their team’s performance.

The first recorded instance of the term "12th Man" being used was to describe E. King Gill.  Texas A&M was playing defending national champion Centre College in the Dixie Classic (the precursor to the Cotton Bowl).   The underdog Aggies were battling hard against a team which boasted three All-Americans.  Although the Aggies were slowly beating their opponent, the injuries they suffered were fierce and Coach D. X. Bible feared he wouldn’t have enough men to finish the game.  Left with no option, the coach called into the Aggie section of the stands for E. King Gill, a reserve who had left football after the regular season to play basketball.  Gill was at the game as a spectator and assisting reporters with spotting players.  When he heard the call, he quickly suited up and donned the uniform of injured player Heine Weir.  The game ended with a battered and bruised Aggie team celebrating a 22–14 victory and E. King Gill was the only man left standing on the sidelines for the Aggies.  After the game Gill 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."  Despite never playing in the game, Gill’s readiness to play was noted – he stood by the 11 men on the field ready to answer the call if needed.

Current Texas A&M students call themselves the 12th Man and symbolize their "readiness, desire, and enthusiasm," by standing throughout the game.  The proud Aggie tradition is also evident through their 12th Man Foundation, an athletic scholarship fund.  A statue of E. King Gill stands to the north of Kyle Field to remind Aggies of their constant obligation to preserve the spirit of the 12th Man.
Texas A&M stadium displays their proud tradition of the 12th Man (photo courtesy of
Texas A&M).

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