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CALL of DUTY
Douglas S. Looney
August 05, 2008
At Texas A&M, where tradition reigns supreme, a daring coach called upon the student body—jocks and bookworms and cadets—to come together on the football field as a living symbol of what Aggies are all about.
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August 05, 2008

Call Of Duty

At Texas A&M, where tradition reigns supreme, a daring coach called upon the student body—jocks and bookworms and cadets—to come together on the football field as a living symbol of what Aggies are all about.

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But doing it against an odd assortment of Former Students and your own teammates—some of the varsity players switched sides to help the outmanned alums—in a spring game in which the rules are altered to reduce the chance of injuries is one thing. Doing it against Cal and Texas and SMU and Arkansas is another. Therefore, Coach Sherrill, what if Cal runs back the first three kickoffs for touchdowns on Sept. 3? "Well, what if the 12th Man team knocks the snot out of somebody, they fumble, and we get the ball on the one?" he says.

That's the way Pennywell looks at the 12th Man too. "Is there a chance we will fail?" says Pennywell. "I'm an engineer, so I have to think in terms of probabilities. I say there is a possibility but not a probability."

Still, there are more skeptics than you can say grace over. John David Crow, winner of the Heisman Trophy in 1957 and the most legendary of Aggies heroes, was asked what went through his mind when he first heard about the 12th Man. Says Crow, "I thought, Goodness gracious, Coach Sherrill has gone crazy." Bill Allison, a junior from San Antonio and a 12th Man candidate, recalls that "everybody was talking about how Jackie Sherrill was making us the laughingstock of the nation. We know he's taking a big risk putting us out there. If I were him, I wouldn't do it."

On his way out of the Grove after the movie, Asel said, "All of us have our dreams, one dream, and it's of us going down the field, making the hit, the ball coming loose and all of us jumping on it. Then we will take the ball and get it bronzed."

It will be great if Asel's dream comes true, because Sherrill is striking a significant blow for the concept of college boys playing a little football on the side. The 12th Man has been waiting for 61 years, so it certainly should be well rested. Keep in mind, too, that these guys have never been licked.

The 12th Man allowed just 13.1 yards per kick return in '83, still an Aggies record, and Texas A&M won three SWC titles ('85-87) before Sherrill left in '88. His successor, R.C. Slocum, altered the 12th Man program to its current form after the unit allowed Texas Tech to return a kickoff 92 yards for a score in '90. Now only one 12th Man member plays every game.

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