Where does the Texas A&M 12th man tradition come from?

Pete Lynch November 25, 2020
Where does the Texas A&M 12th man tradition come from?
Photo by Daniel Dunn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Texas 12th Man tradition in college football dates to January 1922 when the underdog Texas A&M Aggies came face to face with Centre College, the nation’s top-ranked team.

Now ESPN have released a documentary about coach Jackie Sherrill’s 12th man kick-off team, started in the 1980s.

The origin of the Texas A&M 12th man tradition

Aggies coach Dana X Bible saw his players tire as the game wore on before he spotted a member of the squad – E King Gill – who wasn’t in uniform, helping reporters identify players.

Gill was a former football player who had been enjoying a stint in basketball. He was called from the stands, suited up and stood ready throughout the rest of the match.

A call to enter the field never arrived, with A&M going on to win the game 22-14. Gill, however, was the only man standing on the sidelines when the final whistle blew.

His gesture of solidarity was welcomed by the Aggies, with Gill soon becoming known as the 12th Man for accepting the call to help his team that day.

His desire to help epitomised the spirit of the entire student body at Texas A&M University, who stand “ready and waiting” during every game.

Coach Jackie Sherrill’s role in the tradition

This long-standing tradition, however, took a different approach in the 1980s thanks to coach Jackie Sherrill.

Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Sherrill started the 12th Man Kick-Off Team, a squad of regular students given open try-outs. Many went on to perform above expectations.

In 1998, an even more outlandish approach was undertaken when 31,000 maroon T-shirts bearing the words ‘Maroon Out’ were sold to home supporters. They created a huge sea of maroon to help their team to a 28-21 victory.

ESPN documentary No Experience Required

The origins of the kick-off team is now the subject of SEC Network’s first Texas A&M-themed documentary, which is part of the SEC Storied historical series.

The documentary, entitled No Experience Required, is largely based on Caleb Pirtle III’s 2009 book of the same name.

Directed by former Conroe McCullough footballer Kenan K Holley, the project has been in the works for four years.

The documentary aired on SEC this week, in large part due to the persistence of ESPN Films executive producer John Dahl, who had his heart set on bringing the film to screens across the globe.

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Freelance sports journalist from Derry/Londonderry with experience at Sky Sports News and the International University Sports Federation. Huge Liverpool and Northern Ireland fan.