Clueless Participant in Aggie Football History

The year was 1970. I was a freshman at Texas A&M, a clarinet player in the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band, a member of the Corps of Cadets, and the epitome of cluelessness long before that term had become entrenched in our cultural vocabulary.

There was nothing about being at A&M, in the band, in the Corps, that was comfortable for me. There were more students at the university than the entire population of my hometown, and more people in my chemistry class than in my high school. As a fish in the Corps, I was not just the low man on the totem pole...I couldn't even see the totem pole. The 300-member band seemed like more of a rugby scrum with a musical score than the finely-tuned group I was used to in high school. Sure, we looked awesome when viewed from the grandstand fifty yards away, but our steps (well, mine, anyway) were powered by pure adrenaline-fired fear: fear of being the one guy (no girls in the band back then, nosireebob) seen to miss a step; fear of being decapitated by an out-of-control trombone player; fear of missing a note. OK, strike that last one. None of us fish dared play a note while marching; we were too busy concentrating on the steps.

It was hard to imagine being in a more alien environment...and then I found myself in the stands at LSU's Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge (properly pronounced "bah-TONE roooooooozh") surrounded by tens of thousands apparently insane screaming Cajuns (I later learned that those terms were completely redundant, as a matter of normal circumstance) anticipating a feast on our sad Aggie carcasses. Yes, this was my first experience with LSU college football, and if I'd known what a reference to Mad Max and Thunderdome meant back then, I might have had some context for the event.

We came into the football game as huge underdogs, a position we'd earned through much hard work, and which would continue to accompany us throughout my college career. (We actually celebrated beating TCU, and everybody beat TCU; no kiddies, this was before TCU learned how to play Big Boy football.) So it was no surprise that A&M trailed LSU late in the fourth quarter, albeit by a surprisingly thin margin. But a loss is a loss, and the mostly inebriated LSU fans (at least the ones I could see, the ones who openly carried their fifths of Southern Comfort into the stadium, a practice that I still believe was encouraged) were rowdy and enthusiastic in their affirmation of our incompetence.

Suddenly, the inconceivable happened. Who was that guy running for his life, carrying an oblong leather object, being chased by a pack of Tigers? And why was the stadium suddenly and fearfully silent? And why wasn't I paying more attention to the game instead of worrying about how many pushups I'd be doing on the long bus ride home?

History was being made on that field, and I was clueless. The immediate consequences quickly became obvious as A&M's Hugh McElroy turned a short pass into a 79-yard touchdown with 13 seconds left in the game, and the Aggies upset LSU 20-18. A&M fans departed the stadium quickly and in relative quiet, since they weren't sure about the laws regarding carrying firearms on the LSU campus. For its part, the Aggie Band left in formation, with the outer row of cadets handing their instruments to others so they could act as bouncers for any irate Tiger fans attempting to penetrate the ranks. (An unwritten rule was that any outsider who intruded on one side of the band's formation was escorted through the interior to the other side, albeit slowly and painfully, if you get my drift.)

The historical significance of that game wasn't obvious to me, other than understanding that A&M had just beaten LSU, which almost never happened. Honestly, it wasn't until I read this story this morning that I realized the greater significance: Hugh McElroy, who scored that miracle touchdown, was the first black player to start for A&M, and his was the first score by a black player. If this ground-breaking achievement was noted in the Bryan-College Station or A&M press at the time, I missed it (which certainly could have been the case). I'm pleased to see that the story is getting some coverage now, in anticipation of an A&M/LSU rematch in the Cotton Bowl on Friday.

A&M lost the remainder of its games that season. I lasted one year in the Corps and the band, electing not to return despite earning a unit award, and I never really developed a clue. But that evening in Baton Rouge will be forever embedded in my memory. And, fortunately, I now have an even better reason for remembering it.

6 Comments

You mean Baylor beat the Aggies that year? By the time I walked upon the sacred steps of BU, just about everyone had pillaged the Bears.....several times over, but then came Grant Teaff in 73.

I will have to pass along your vignette to a teammate of mine from Lee who went on to play Quarterback for LSU in the mid to late 70's. I'm sure the Southern Comfort was just dessert by that time of the game.

I was also thinking of Jerry Levias at SMU a few years prior to your experience at TAMU.

Great Story!

One of the powder kegs issues during that era was that Baylor played the Aggies for homecoming every other year. Various Aggies would filter into Waco to promote some mischief and chaos such as painting the Judge down on the quadrangle. It was the duty of the fish to guard the sacred bronze statue with 'aggie sticks'which were makeshift axe handles which were highly decorative.

You can imagine the possibilities with young men, testosterone and a club can bring forth.

The tradition was later discarded for the sake of public safety in mind.

Eric, I entered Baylor the Fall semester of 1973. I am not aware of any fatilities. There was a problem involving some of Coach Teaffs football kids mixing it up with some of the frosh during an homecoming that required stiches at a local ER. Players were punished.

Here is a link to Baylor Ed. http://www.baylor.edu/lariat/news.php?action=story&story=54142

Now, I googled up a reference about an Aggie Death back in the 30's involving Baylor's homecoming.

www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?...Baylor%20University

I can't access this at work so I don't know if this is an urban legend or not.

Of course if it wasn't the Aggies, it was the Horned Frogs from TCU the next season. And the sticks were called.....you guessed it... Froggie Sticks.

Were were all such troglodytes back then. ;)

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This page contains a single entry by Eric published on January 3, 2011 7:58 AM.

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