DALLAS (105.3 THE FAN) – Growing up a Longhorn, I never got it. “Gig ’em?” How lame I thought. On top of that, add yell leaders instead of cheerleaders and yell practice to figure out how to properly cheer for your team?
Adding to my ire for this team, a precocious young man named Johnny Manziel. A guy I wanted to cheer for last year but who frustrated me with his complaints of the pressures of fame.
In my eyes, he failed to assume the weight of his new responsibilities and lacked the maturity required for a quarterback of a now top 10 football program.
None of it, not Johnny Football nor the school’s traditions, quite made sense until Saturday, Sept. 14 in the grudge match against perennial powerhouse Alabama that will now go down as one of this year’s classic football games.
Driving into College Station there is a palpable excitement. The town exudes optimism and pride. Walk through the tailgates and Johnny Manziel has achieved rock star status, guys want to be him and girls want to meet him as his image appears on t-shirts and tailgate posters.
While the nation shakes their heads at the young man’s brash and bold attitude, the campus, its alums and the administration seem to embrace it and that is when even a critic like myself starts to wonder if they have had this whole thing all wrong.
The stadium itself is a remarkable one because of the fans.
The crowd of 88,000 poured into the stadium early wearing their maroon and white and it was a hot one. The sun beat down mercilessly on the student section but the students and ticket holders stood ready to go as the energy before the game began to build.
I was immediately impressed with the enthusiasm early on of the yell leaders and the students who followed them.
As much as I doubted the idea of elected boys and men willing the crowd to cheer for their team, I will say this they got more out of them than a group of attractive girls performing basket flips on the sidelines.
There are also the cadets who braved the heat in uniform as they made their way in unison around the stadium.
Sweat beads rolled down their cheeks but they never broke their strides to acknowledge it.
Reveille, the school mascot, marched along with the cadets as well and its my understanding the dog is so revered on campus that when he or she attends class with their assigned cadet and barks ‘class is dismissed’. Not a bad tradition and if I were the cadet I would work on training that dog accordingly.
The crowd performs chants on cues, whoops, hisses and sways together creating an atmosphere I have never seen before but one I now appreciate.
Regardless of the score on the board or the momentum of the game it was a student body unified in supporting their team good or bad and one as a Longhorn I now envy.
The tradition, the student body, the sense of pride has always been part of the Aggie attitude – but its Johnny Football that has taken the school to the next level. I can say that with confidence after seeing it now with my own eyes.
I hate the word “swagger” but there is no other way to describe it. Johnny Manziel has the elusive “it” factor that propels a guy with talent into a legend.
The school president, former athletes on the field, alums and celebrities all make the money sign that’s now become the Johnny sign. He’s turned something illicit into something en vogue.
Perhaps more remarkable though is his talent in action.
I was able to watch his escapability and the fearlessness in action. I saw him put coach Saban on notice early. Unfortunately his defense couldn’t do the same.
Johnny Football put on a show at Kyle Field Saturday helping the team score 42 points and accounting for 464 rushing yards. The 562 total yards was the 2nd most in his career and second most in SEC.
After seeing his performance, I now understand why the fans look the other way when it comes to the off field stuff because its impossible to when he graces the football field. If Alabama thought they figured Johnny Manziel out after a year of watching film they didn’t and that’s what makes Manziel scary. He’s that good!
After watching A&M not only NOT give up – but come within a touchdown of tying the game, I can’t help but root for this team and the school.
I hated A&M’s departure from the Big 12 and was jealous of their move to the SEC. They fooled us all by not only hanging with the big boys but they transformed into one of them and to Manziel’s credit he did too.
I watched him channel his emotions during the game into fuel driving ones creating a relentless commitment to compete even when the score would have prompted other less confident quarterbacks to accept defeat.
This team played its toughest opponent in Alabama early with Mississippi and LSU still on the schedule. I wouldn’t be surprised if this team went 11-1 this year and still found themselves in contention for the National Championship.
A LONGHORN WISES UP
Meantime, in Austin, the best my Longhorns can hope for is a Big 12 Championship that appears bleak in each week’s increasingly dismissal performance.
The Mack Brown era is drawing to a close and new ones are evolving. There is excitement in Lubbock and Waco and frustration in Austin.
What I will say to my beloved Longhorns in Austin is this, sometimes it takes just one guy – in Lubbock its Kliff Kingsbury, for Baylor it was RGIII, in College Station its Johnny Manziel. Let’s hope DeLoss Dodds and company can find the Longhorns one sooner rather than later.
Aggies, I tip my hat to you, your traditions and your quarterback, it was all something I had to see to believe and you couldn’t have been more gracious hosts.
As my team and the athletic department at UT spin out of control I’m quietly wishing for your success this year and for now believe if you can’t beat ’em, Gig ’em until Texas and A&M once again reunite on the football field.
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