Visiting Gator fans' Texas A&M primer

June, 5, 2012
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Texas A&M is one of two new members of the Southeastern Conference, and the Aggies get their first taste of what it’s like to play in the conference on Sept. 8 with a visit from Florida.

If you’re heading out to that game -- which will be the SEC opener for both teams -- here’s a primer on the school, it’s history and traditions, and some places to dine/drink while you’re out there:

TEXAS A&M

Location: College Station, Texas, which is located approximately 90 miles northwest of Houston.

Enrollment: The school currently has about 50,000 students, which makes it the sixth-largest public university in the country.

[+] EnlargeKyle Field
Aaron M. Sprecher/Getty ImagesOnce a fairly easy ticket in the Big 12, fans visiting Kyle Field will have a harder time now that the Aggies are in the SEC.
Stadium: Kyle Field (82,600).

Mascot: Reveille, a purebred Collie. The first mascot dates back to 1931, when a group of cadets at the school brought back a small dog it had accidentally hit on the road. They named her Reveille the next morning when she barked while the bugler played “Reveille.” Every Reveille -- and the current is Reveille VIII -- is a five-star general in the school’s Corps of Cadets.

History: Texas A&M opened in 1876 as the state’s first public institution of higher learning. Congress in July 1862 approved the Morrill Act, which allowed public land to be donated to states so they could create places of higher learning. The Texas state legislature established the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas in April 1871.

Football traditions: There’s quite a few, actually. Here are some of the most notable:

The 12th Man -- The student body is known as the 12th Man, and students stand throughout the game. According to the school’s website, this tradition dates back to 1922, when the Aggies suffered so many injuries during the first half of a game against Centre College that coach Dana X. Bible had just 11 healthy players remaining. He called student E. King Gill out of the stands and he suited up and was ready to play if needed.

Yell Leaders -- Not cheerleaders, yell leaders. There are only five each year (three seniors, two juniors) and they are elected by the student body. According to the school’s website, the tradition began in 1907 while Texas A&M was still an all-male school. Ladies were invited to attend football games, and it was during a game that an upperclassman ordered the freshmen to entertain their guests during the game. The freshmen donned white coveralls and started leading the crowd in yells.

Midnight Yell -- It’s held at midnight the night before a home game at Kyle Field. Yell leaders lead the band and current and former students into the stadium. Once inside, the yell leaders lead the crowd in yells that date back to when Texas A&M was an all-male military school.

Gig ‘em -- It’s essentially a thumbs-up sign with the right hand, and the school’s website says it started in 1930 during yell practice before the TCU game. Pinky Downs, a member of the school’s board of regents, yelled out, “What are we going to do to those Horned Frogs? Gig ‘em, Aggies!” A gig is a pronged tool used to hunt frogs, which is commonly referred to gigging frogs. You’ll hear “Gig ‘em” outside the stadium on game day and anywhere else Aggies fans gather.

Maroon Out -- Every year one game is designated for Maroon Out, where Aggies fans wear maroon T-shirts. It began with the 1988 Nebraska game. Fans were asked to wear maroon shirts to wash out the red and white of Huskers fans. Texas A&M won 28-21.

Hungry? Thirsty? Check these spots out:

For many it’ll be the first trip to College Station. Thankfully, Aggies fans responded to ESPN.com SEC blogger Edward Aschoff when he asked for suggestions for places to go. Here are some of their recommendations:

Of the 11 responses Aschoff used in his blog, seven mentioned Dixie Chicken. Surprisingly, they raved about the burgers.

Another highly-recommended spot was Layne’s Chicken Fingers, which has been around since 1994 and boasts of a secret sauce for its chicken fingers.

Freebirds World Burrito is a chain with locations in California, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Among the things you can get on your burrito is the Death Sauce. You also can order pot brownies -- and don’t worry, they’re completely legal.

C&J Barbecue has two locations in College Station and one in nearby Bryan. It was voted the “Favorite Barbecue Restaurant” of the Brazos Valley for 13 consecutive years by the Eagles Readers Choice Awards.

Hullabaloo Diner in nearby Wellborn was featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins & Dives.” The Italian sausage sandwich with peppers, onions and smoked provolone cheese, the Philly cheesesteak, and the fries with sausage gravy were the featured items in the episode. It also has a peanut butter & jelly French toast sandwich.

A few other spots the readers recommended: O’Bannon’s Taphouse (which has 75 ales and lagers), Potato Shack (huge spuds any way you want), and Koppe Bridge Bar & Grill (which boasts the “best big burger in town”).

Mike DiRocco | email

ESPN Jacksonville Jaguars reporter

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