(This post is available on my Podcast—tune in on Amazon Music, Apple Music, Stitcher, Buzzsprout—you can click on the Podcast link on the Home Page for my blogsite)
Sports has always been a big part of my life. I never played a sport, unless you count the time that I participated in an intramural-type basketball tournament sponsored by the Student Council.
That was my “one and done.”
It was just my luck that a girl named Peaches was guarding me. Don’t let the name fool you. She was about my height, but much bigger. And Peaches came to play.
Toward the end of the game, I had the ball and tried dribbling around her, but she lumbered into my path. I stopped and was clearly set, but she bounded into me and I fell backwards in a none-too-graceful fashion. It was clearly a “blocking foul” by Peaches, but I was called for a “charge.” I don’t remember the outcome of the game, but it was on that night that my brief foray into sports came to an embarrassing, and somewhat scary end.
I grew up listening to the Texas Aggies on the radio. This was in the time before games were available for viewing in every manner possible. Some of my favorite memories are with my dad, listening to A&M games. I was a Dallas Cowboy fan from birth, and at one point in my young life, could name all the starting offensive and defensive players, including their numbers.
I married a coach, and over the years, I’m sure I attended a combined total of over a thousand football and basketball games. I love the competition, the excitement, and even with the disappointment of the defeats, there is always something that can be learned during those hard times. It is true that “Sports doesn’t build character, it reveals it.”
I’ve had the privilege of being in attendance for some of the most exciting games in history. Or at least in the history of my life:
- In 2006, when my husband’s basketball team, the Arp Tigers, won the state 2A Championship
- the 2016 NCAA basketball tournament game, when A&M was trailing UNI, down by 12 points with 33 seconds left—-and they won in overtime (my son was a Graduate Assistant with the team)
- The A&M/LSU game with 7 overtimes, when the Aggies won 74-72
- The game at Cameron Indoor Stadium, when the SFA Lumberjacks defeated the #1 ranked Duke Blue Devils (and my son was an assistant coach on the staff)
And now, the game of my lifetime—-October 9, 2021, when Texas A&M beat #1 ranked Alabama at Kyle Field. I must be completely honest. For a fleeting moment, we thought about not going to the game. We knew it would be a long night, and weren’t looking forward to the three hour trip home, after what we believed would be a lop-sided game.
But then we thought back to those games that were won in the last seconds. The games that were certain to have a different outcome. The games we thought would go in the “L” column. We remembered the stories of the parents of players who left early and had to listen outside the coliseum, while their son played the best minutes of his basketball life. We remembered friends who left the A&M/LSU game early, because they wanted to avoid the traffic.
Since those overtime, last minute victories, we’ve learned to view sports differently. Once you decide to support a team, you should be all in. Every team has its “t-shirt fans,” the ones who tag-along when things are good. The ones whose only investment is the t-shirt they bought from Walmart. The ones who are the most obnoxious and outspoken on social media. The ones who spend most of their time bashing “their” team’s rival, rather than supporting their team.
The ones who, once the going gets tough, jump off the bandwagon, and find someone else to follow.
Please don’t think that I’m being pompous and snarky. I love people who support teams just because they like them, or they know someone who attended college there, or have some other connection. You don’t have to obtain a degree from a university to support a team.
But if you choose to support that team, you do it through the good, the bad, and the ugly.
So, with less than great expectations, but a lot of excitement for all the pomp and circumstance that goes with a home game at Kyle Field, we dressed in our Aggie gear and were on our way (well, since I still didn’t have my new t-shirt, I wore a white shirt and a maroon vest).
On the way out the door, I impulsively ran back inside to grab my 12th Man Towel. I couldn’t remember the last time I took a 12th Man Towel to a game, but recently, when cleaning out a drawer, I found two: both were autographed by Jackie Sherrill.
Before you criticize me for carelessly and randomly leaving such sacred Aggie artifacts in a forgotten drawer, these were “extras” that I had signed when Jackie Sherrill was the guest speaker at a dinner sponsored by the Tyler/Smith County A&M Club. Obviously, it goes without saying, I have another autographed towel framed and hanging in our “sports room.”
Anyway, for whatever reason, I thought to take this towel—-maybe it was a moment of nostalgia that propelled this decision. After all, Jackie Sherrill coached the Aggies when I was a student there.
And maybe, that was the missing link. A forgotten, then rescued towel which just minutes before had been destined to spending life in a drawer of random memorabilia and mismatched socks that were waiting for their partners to return.
It didn’t dawn on me until later in the week that Jackie Sherrill played football at Alabama, under Coach Bear Bryant…
While not a major or important detail, this bit of trivia just makes the whole experience a little more interesting, and is a small snippet of how the degree of separation between two things is always closer than we realize. An example of how sports brings people together in many predictable and surprising ways.
It was a beautiful night. The crowd was electric. The spirit of the 12th Man was alive and well. Our pre-game ritual had been great. We briefly met up with our sons, and then stopped by the tailgate of a high school friend. She happened to send me an email Saturday morning, inviting us to her family’s annual tailgate. It was a fun time, and the unanimous hope and prayer shared by us all was that the Aggies would at least make it a respectable game.
Most Aggies I spoke with were lacking in confidence, and the general consensus was that if the game “got out of hand,” people would slip out during half-time and beat the traffic out of the stadium. I mean, if you can’t win the game, you could at least beat the traffic. Fair-weather fans to say the least.
But it was Bama. And everyone in the country pretty much knew the outcome before the game was even played. I mean the Aggies were 0-2 in conference play, for Pete’s sake.
Once the game began, though, things felt different.
Zach Calzada was en pointe. Our offense was on fire! Our defense resembled the wrecking crew of old. Every coach and player was prepared for battle!
The noise level was unbelievable. The loudest I’ve ever heard at Kyle Field.
I won’t bore you with the details of my experience. I’m sure most everyone who is a fan of football watched the game. And even though millions of people viewed the same game, the impact on each individual is different.
And it’s those stories, the untold ones, the quiet ones, the moments experienced by few and many, that I want to share.
I won’t lie. This was one of the greatest sports moments of my life, and when the cannon loudly boomed after the game winning field goal, I cried. My husband thought I had lost my mind, but he understood better when I said, “I’ve waited for this moment my entire life.” Suddenly, in the middle of the season, it was “next year,” and I no longer had to wait.
We did it! We were David to Alabama’s Goliath. And Texas A&M shocked the world.
It was the biggest win I can remember. It wasn’t a win that would propel us to #1. It didn’t decide the winner of the SEC West. But we, Texas A&M, defeated the #1 team, after suffering two devastating losses. When they could have thrown in the towel, and rattled off numerous excuses, this team pulled together. They rallied around #10. And they played their hearts out.
So now, I’ll share some stories, and videos, and texts. Some you will see, and some will be links, for those who want to find out more.
Here’s Seth Small’s family watching his game-winning field goal. Everyone needs family like that!
A friend shared this information with me earlier in the week:
And that, folks, is how sports reveals character…
And then there’s Seth Small’s press conference where he states that this was the third best day of his life; the best being the day he accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, and the second best being the day he married his wife.
Then there’s the story of the 12th man:
“For those who don’t know, 100 years ago Texas A&M played against the defending National Champion (Centre College).
Due to injuries, head coach, Dana X. Bible called upon a player in the stands to suit up to potentially play on the field. Texas A&M went on to beat Centre College (22-14). E. King Gill never ended up going into the game to play, but Gill was the last remaining available player on the sidelines.
Since this game, the student section is known as the 12th Man, where students are ready to suit up if ever necessary.
Last Saturday, Texas A&M hosted the #1 ranked defending National Champions Alabama at home. Not only did we have a backup quaterback (Calzada) in the game as starting QB, but after Calzada was carried off the field, Texas A&M had a walk-on QB taking practice snaps ready to go in for the game winning drive.
Our walk-on QB (Blake Bost) never ended up needing to go in, and Calzada and the Texas A&M Aggies defeated #1 Alabama (41-38), re-creating the 100 year legend almost exactly.” (forwarded to me by my son, Charles)
I also heard, and read that when Calzada was injured after throwing a pass which resulted in a touchdown, he was down for a couple of minutes. Jimbo obviously went out on the field to check on his QB. As we were all praying for the best, Jimbo said to Calzada, “We made a touchdown.” And then Zach got up and walked off the field.
I’m sure the stories have been stretched, and embellished, but they’re the stuff that legends are made of.
As Clay Travis stated in the article he wrote about the game,
The entire article by Mr. Travis is an excellent read.
And what a forecast by this Aggie meteorologist:
And there was another weather guy out of Austin who added at the end of his forecast that there was a noticeable amount of precipitation hovering over College Station. He then added, “Oh, it’s the tears of the Alabama fans…”
These are just a few of the highlights, and stories from that night. I guess I should add that it was Jimbo Fisher’s birthday, the perfect final touch to a fabulous evening under the lights at Kyle Field.
In the days, and weeks, and months, and years, when I think back on that game, I will remember the mental and physical toughness and grit; I will remember the giving of all the glory to God; the support of the entire Aggie family and friends; the camaraderie between the football players and members of the Corps of Cadets; the 12th Man, Jimbo walking into the medical tent like Mr. Miyagi, and Zach Calzada playing the role of Danielsan, emerging from the tent—-evoking the memories and words, “Daniel LaRusso’s gonna fight!”
As Johnny Manziel said to Zach Calzada, “It’s right there, man. Go be a legend,” I was reminded of my favorite quote from “The Sandlot,”
Sure, Calzada will be remembered for the win. But he’ll also be remembered for his heart. He didn’t give up. He dug in. Worked hard. Focused. And as Jimbo said, “He believed in the process.” And in the end, he found redemption as the crowd chanted his name, and we toppled the Giant. He had his “Rudy” moment, as he was carried off the field. But that’s not where it’s gonna end for Zach. For someone who showed up for the students at ticket pull early on a Monday morning after a devastating defeat, and then showed up for the fans at Kyle Field, this is only the beginning of the great things Zach Calzada will experience.
I, for one, am happy to be along on this ride, and will be cheering him on to wherever all of this may lead.
In true, sports movie, dramatic fashion, the night didn’t end when the game was over. As the crowd lingered, and the scoreboard remained illuminated, we made our three hour trek home.
And in an Academy Award winning moment, as we drove into the driveway at 3:15 a.m., we saw it.
The box from Aggieland Outfitters.
The contents inside: my long lost shirt.
Yep. The shirt that says, “We Ain’t Done Yet.” I promise, I had chills as I opened it and held it in the air. And that’s when, for the first time, I noticed something. The shirt didn’t just say, “We Ain’t Done Yet,” there was more.
It wasn’t just a phrase, it was a complete sentence.
A promise of sorts for those of us brave enough to put our hearts on the line and believe.
Win, lose, or draw, I will proudly wear that shirt. And when I do, I’ll think of that night at Kyle Field when the good guys won. The night when the torch was passed from one legend to another. A night that will live on forever in the hearts and minds of A&M fans.
“First learn to stand, then learn to fly. Nature’s rules Danielsan, not mine.”
We Ain’t Done Yet.
Wax on. Wax off.