Before he became the first 12th Man, an Aggie by the name of E. King Gill was simply a squad player for the University’s football team. On the second of January, 1922, as the heavily outgunned Aggies were facing the top-ranked Centre College Praying Colonels on the gridiron, 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 Aggie Coach Dana X. Bible looked across his rapidly emptying bench, he 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 at the ready 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, winning the game 22-14. And Gill remained standing, the only player left on the team’s bench.
"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." - E. King Gill, Aggie Class of 1924
Today that spirit lives on at Kyle Field, with the entire student body standing throughout the game as a united 12th Man ready to be called in at a moment’s notice. The team itself also honors the tradition, with the #12 jersey being awarded to players who best embody the grit, determination and selflessness of the 12th Man.