The 12th Man is one of the greatest traditions in college football, with all students standing throughout the game, ready to help their team, and one walk-on player donning the No. 12 to represent all students on the field. Braden White held that honor the past two seasons, and on Saturday, it was announced that junior deep snapper Connor Choate would carry the torch in 2021.
Choate has served as the Aggies’ deep snapper each of the last two seasons, and with two years of eligibility remaining, he will likely be the 12th Man for the next two seasons.
History of the 12th Man at Texas A&M
On Jan. 2, 1922, the heavily outgunned Aggies were facing the top-ranked Centre College Praying Colonels on the gridiron in the Dixie Classic in Dallas. An Aggie by the name of E. King Gill, a squad player for Texas A&M’s football team, was up in the press box helping reporters identify players on the field below — and what was happening on the field wasn’t pretty.
The Aggies found themselves plagued by injuries, with their reserves seemingly dwindling with every play. As Texas A&M Coach Dana X. Bible looked across his rapidly emptying bench, he suddenly remembered Gill’s presence in the stands. Bible waved Gill down to the sideline and told him to suit up. Gill ran under the bleachers and put on the uniform of injured running back Heine Weir, who had been knocked out of the game in the first quarter.
Gill returned to the sideline, where he stood ready to play for the entirety of the game. When the last play was run, the Aggies found that they had pulled off one of the greatest upsets in college football history, winning the game 22-14.
And Gill remained standing, the only player left on the team’s bench.
Gill’s willingness to serve his team in 1922 has passed down from generation to generation of Aggies for more than one hundred years, as Texas A&M’s student section stands together during entire football and basketball games, a symbol of the 12th Man on the team.
The 12th Man was honored in various ways throughout the decades, but didn’t have an on-field presence until the creation of the 12th Man Kickoff Team in 1983, a kickoff coverage team consisting exclusively of walk-ons. In 1990, that was changed to have just one walk-on player on the kickoff team. However in recent years the 12th Man has gotten on the field at other positions as well, including linebacker and fullback, thanks to Cullen Gillaspia. Choate will continue that tradition of seeing the 12th Man much more than just on kickoffs.