ONE MAN'S STAND THE STORY OF THE 12TH MAN
“I believe the 12th Man is one of the greatest traditions in all of college football — 40,000 students standing not as fans, but as members of our team.”
For more than nine decades, Texas A&M has proudly embraced its 12th Man tradition — and in 1990, the university became the first and only entity to obtain a federal trademark for the phrase “12th Man.”
Since that time, hundreds of entities ranging from professional sports teams to consumer goods manufacturers have used the 12th Man trademark without the university’s consent.
One of the responsibilities of owning a trademark is addressing infringement issues, both large and small. Texas A&M takes this responsibility seriously, sending more than 500 cease-and-desist letters related to unauthorized use of the 12th Man and other university trademarks since 2012. In fact, only two entities have Texas A&M’s permission to use the 12th Man: the Seattle Seahawks and the Buffalo Bills.
Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but one trip to Kyle Field will make it clear that the spirit of the 12th Man is alive and well in College Station, Texas — and it has been since a cold January day in 1922.
Year Trademark Was Registered
Trademark Infringement Issues Since 2012
Years Since the 12th Man First Stood Up
Trademark Infringement Issues By Year
- Seattle Texas A&M licensed limited uses of its 12th Man trademark to the Seattle Seahawks in 2006.
- Texas A&M University In 1922, the 12th Man tradition started at Texas A&M. In 1990, Texas A&M obtained a Federal registration of the 12th Man trademark. This trademark is uncontestible.
- Buffalo Bills In 2007, Texas A&M granted a limited license to the Buffalo Bills to feature "12th Man" inside the Ralph Wilson Stadium.
"I wish I could say that I went in and ran for the winning touchdown, but I did not. I simply stood by in case my team needed me."
Before he became the first 12th Man, an Aggie by the name of E. King Gill was simply a squad player for Texas A&M’s football team. 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. Gill 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.
Historical photos courtesy of Cushing Memorial Library & Archives
"This is the best student section right here in college football."
For nearly 90 years, Kyle Field has been the place of hundreds of legendary Aggie football games: storied victories, a few heartbreaking defeats and astounding athletic achievements.
And through them all, the 12th Man – the student body at Texas A&M — has stood proud and always at the ready.
Gill’s willingness to serve his team in 1922 has passed down from generation to generation of Aggies, as Texas A&M’s student section stands together during entire football games, a symbol of the 12th Man on the team.
The power of the 12th Man is echoed in the unity, the loyalty, and the willingness of Aggies to serve when called to so. And it is the reason that Texas A&M has earned a name that embraces Gill’s simple gesture of service:
Home of the 12th Man.
“…the Aggie Spirit involves a multitude of people over a long span of time, wars, peace, depression, and good times. Something happens to them in a deep, spiritual way, and they are never quite the same again.”
The traditions of Texas A&M are the foundation and background to the Aggie core values of excellence, integrity, leadership, loyalty, respect and selfless service, but more importantly, they create what Aggies call the Spirit of Aggieland.
At midnight the night before each home game, more than 25,000 Aggies gather at Kyle Field for a special Yell Practice.
Aggies will often flash a thumbs up and say “gig ’em!” The phrase and a thumbs-up gesture identify an Aggie fan.
Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band
Known for its military precision and style, the 400+ members of the nationally famous Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band execute maneuvers like the signature block T that are so complex, computer programs calculate them to be impossible.
The official mascot of Texas A&M, Miss Rev first came to campus in 1931, after a group of cadets found a stray dog on the side of the road. Today’s Reveille VIII is a full-blooded collie and the highest-ranking member of the Corps of Cadets.
Aggies don’t cheer, they yell! Five Yell Leaders began leading Aggie yells in 1907. They are elected each year by the student body.
Howdy is the official greeting of Texas A&M. Students greeting one another, and especially visitors, with a “howdy” has earned the university a reputation as the friendliest campus in the world.