Traditions run deep in the Southeastern Conference. The Alabama Crimson Tide had Paul “Bear” Bryant. The Ole Miss Rebels have The Grove. The Tennessee Volunteers have their checkerboard end zones. The Florida Gators have The Swamp.
When the Texas A&M Aggies were admitted to the SEC in 2012, they brought many of their own traditions with them.
One of the most storied traditions in the history of Aggie football is the 12th Man. That is the name that Texas A&M football fans called themselves, as their support made it feel as if there were 12 Aggies on the field.
When Jackie Sherrill coached A&M in the 1980s, he expanded the tradition a bit further. Sherrill assembled some of his special teams with a group made up completely of walk-on players. This gave fans a sense that they were actually on the field with their beloved Aggies.
SEC fans love their cheerleaders, and some schools in the conference are among the nation’s best. But at Texas A&M, they don’t have cheerleaders, they have Yell Leaders. These Yell Leaders are traditionally all male, and they are a group of five, usually three seniors and two juniors. The Yell Leaders do not perform gymnastics or other traditional cheerleading maneuvers. Instead, they use hand signals and their voices to lead the Aggie fans in cheer.
Another cheer heard at Kyle Field is “Gig ‘em, Aggies”, a phrase that has become a rallying cry for Texas A&M. This tradition was started in 1930 at a midnight yell practice before a game with the Texas Christian Horned Frogs. Pinky Downs, a Texas A&M graduate and member of the school’s Board of Regents asked a question that spawned this cheer. He said, “what are we going to do to those Horned Frogs? Gig ‘em, Aggies!” The term for frog hunting turned into a cheer, complete with the now well-known fist with the thumb extended signal.
All of these traditions, as well as a strong product on the field, helped Texas A&M make an easy transition into the SEC last season. And with such strong heritage, it’s easy to see why the SEC wanted A&M as a member.