For 39 games, fullback Cullen Gillaspia donned the famous No. 12 jersey for the Texas A&M Aggies with great pride. The former walk-on carried on the tradition with honor and worked his tail off to get drafted by the Houston Texans after his senior season. Now, there's a new player wearing that number in College Station.
Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher named junior linebacker Braden White the new 12th man before the Aggies opened the 2019 college football season against Texas State on Thursday, August 29 at historic Kyle Field.
Braden White as Texas A&M's 12th Man
A native of Florence, Alabama, White played in 18 games the previous two seasons prior to the announcement, primarily on special teams, and had already won honors such as Defensive Scout MVP and the Top Conditioned Athlete Award during his career with the program.
Adding the 12th Man to the list was icing on the cake and he's lived up to the honor.
During the 2019 season, the 5-foot-11 linebacker played in all 13 games, and recorded a tackle against Texas State and Lamar. White also earned the Attitude Award for the Aggies defense during the annual team banquet.
There was obviously a lot of pressure to be the program's new 12th man, but White was apparently the perfect fit to replace Gillaspia, a fan favorite who tied Sam Moeller for the all-time record for appearances as the 12th Man. White is doing all he can to keep the tradition alive, too.
Texas A&M 12th Man Jersey History
According to Texas A&M University, the 12th Man "refers to the entire student body at Texas A&M, past and present." That's because of the students once came from the stands to play in a football game.
Back in 1922, the Aggies were hosting Centre College, which, at the time, was one of the best teams in the country. Injuries had depleted the roster and the football team had just 11 players. So, E. King Gill decided to go from the stands and suited up on the sideline. That's the spirit of a true Aggie, and one that still lives today.
In 1983, Aggies coach Jackie Sherrill created a special teams unit comprised of all walk-on players. It was a success, and it paved the way for players like Moeller, Gillaspia and White to wear the famous jersey. The 12th Man Towel was created in 1985 and "Home of the 12th Man was added to Kyle Field just three years later.
In 1990, Texas A&M head coach R.C. Slocum reduced the kickoff team from "ten walk-ons to one walk-on player wearing the number 12."
The 12th Man jersey and t-shirt is not just men's and women's apparel you see on fans during NCAA college football game days. It's a way of life and has been long before Adidas was the main sponsor and the Aggies joined the SEC.
This is one of many great Aggies traditions, and it now belongs to Braden White to keep it going.
This post was originally published on August 21, 2019 before updating.
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