To most, 2011 wasn't all that long ago. Bin Laden was killed, #OccupyWallStreet was a thing, and the Rangers were one strike away from winning the World Series (twice). These things basically just happened. It wasn't long ago at all. But for Texas A&M football, 2011 may as well have been a lifetime ago.
Mike Sherman was at the helm of the Ags, and he and Athletic Director Bill Byrne were hopeful they had a team worthy of vying for a Big 12 title. Kyle Field held 83,000 people. Johnny Manziel was a three-star recruit from a small Texas town riding the bench during a redshirt season. All the while, the team wore this:
We all know what has changed since 2011. Kevin Sumlin, the SEC, the Swagcopter, the Heisman. Texas A&M football no longer resembles its former self. There's an energy, a culture, a swagger that this program has never seen, and the signs are everywhere. You can point to the recruiting, the locker room, the redeveloped Kyle Field or the sleek social media campaigns, but more than anything, the threads Texas A&M dons on Saturdays epitomize the tectonic shift that's occurred in College Station in just a few short years.
In 2012, A&M unveiled the biggest uniform change in program history. The simple fact that there was an official uniform unveiling seemed like a foreign concept in Aggieland. From the satin finish on the helmet, to the vertical shoulder stripes and the (gasp!) beveled numbers, this was a drastic departure from our recent uniform history. In the year since, these uniforms have since become instantly recognizable as Texas A&M, and more specifically, Texas A&M in the SEC.
As the 2012 season unfolded, we realized that Sumlin was different. Manziel was different, this program was different. That's when this happened.
All white? All black?!?! As much as many people may have been hesitant to embrace these changes, nobody could argue that they made a statement. They set this new version of Texas A&M apart from any in history, and for the most part, that distinction has been positive. They've kept the alternate uniforms coming over the past few years, almost as quickly as Kevin Sumlin has put players into the first round of the NFL draft.
Texas A&M and Adidas unveiled their latest creation on Friday, Aug. 7, which they'll wear against South Carolina on Saturday, Oct. 31, at Kyle Field. Whether you like them or not, ultimately, isn't really the point. They're a symbol of what this program has become: Relevant.
Adidas is the one with their logo on the jersey, but many within the A&M athletic department have had significant input on this brand revolution. Kevin Sumlin is the visible face, but Head Equipment Manager Matt Watson has about as much say as anyone in the way the Aggies look on Saturday. Senior Associate Athletics Director Jason Cook has also been a staunch advocate for visibility and consistency in the A&M brand.
In the end, none of the flash of uniforms means a thing unless it translates to wins on the field. Nobody within A&M's program will tell you otherwise. But in a recruiting world where perception often supersedes reality, Sumlin and company have done what seemed virtually impossible four years ago: They've made A&M cool. Not just a military school with a big stadium and traditions, but a place that caters to young athletes, and a place they desire to be. In a place where often any change is perceived as change for the worse, they've built a visual identity off of constant change.
If all goes according to plan, the wins should follow, hopefully sooner than later. Until then, enjoy the fashion show. The recruits and players definitely do.