Thursday, December 6, 2012

The 2012 Aggies, What a Ride...

I am a pro wrestling fan. Back in 1996, Wrestlemania XII featured a moment that all wrastlin' fans remember. Shawn Michaels rode the zip line from the rafters down to the ring, won the world title, and a legend was born. As he flew, then ring announcer Vince McMahon yelled out "Ohhh What a ride..." But what I've never thought about until now is the chance Shawn took that night. As he stepped off the ledge, he didn't just face the fear of falling. He faced the fear of failing. He had gone from a good guy in a tag team to a bad guy on his own. He betrayed his partner and the fans that loved him. But in the end, he was good enough to make the gamble pay off.

In late June of 2012, Texas A&M University faced their own moment of truth. For over two years, the debate raged about whether or not The Aggies could compete in the SEC on the football field. The extremists on one side said they would compete right away with the likes of LSU and Alabama. The other side said they would never be much more than Ole Miss or Vandy. They had just finished a decade to forget in 2009. The new decade began with some talent, a win over Texas, and a 9 win season. But 2011 brought heart-breaking losses, the firing of a coach, and a loss to Texas in the last scheduled game of the rivalry. Whatever momentum had been created heading to the SEC was diminished that night and that season. Now Aggies had to look towards a brutal SEC schedule, a QB position with almost no experience, and a new coaching staff that seemed to be going from Double A ball right to the majors. Oh, and at that point, they had been 0-7 in their last seven games against SEC competition. Even the most die hard Aggie couldn't have been brimming with confidence. But wait, there's more...

On June 29th, two days before A&M officially became an SEC member, a redshirt freshman named Johnny Manziel was arrested. The first time many people heard the name "Johnny Football", it was this story and the jokes that followed. So now Aggies had to drop some needs and focus on baby steps.

- Step 1, win an SEC game or two. And it would be nice if one win wasn't called Ole Miss.

- Step 2, Try to make a bowl game. A 7+ win season would give Aggieland, Sumlin, and the guy in the bow tie something to build on.

So the Aggies stood at the beginning of the season. Mother Nature moved the schedule around and made the first game Florida. That's right, Florida. And A&M had to face Will Muschamp's defense with a redshirt freshman QB. Oh yeah, forgot to mention that part. The same guy that was arrested in Northgate for fighting and passing fake ID's had taken the job in Fall camp.

Now like Shawn Michaels in '96, the Aggies did have talent. The offensive line brought back some studs. The RB position was solid as were the receivers. If the QB and leaders on defense could just bring it together, they might be all right. So were they ready? Could they compete in the best conference in college football? Or in the Michaels analogy, could they go from being just a Rocker to being HBK?

WWJFFD? - I think you know the rest. These Aggies have blown by everyone's expectations, even their own. Tonight, Johnny Manziel won the Davey O'Brien Award. He is the first freshman and first Aggie to win it. Luke Joeckel won the Outland Trophy, also a first for the school. And Saturday night, Manziel is up for the Heisman. Since the day I was born, an Aggie has never even been invited to New York. John David Crow won A&M's only Heisman in 1957. That's 55 long years. And while most projections have Manziel winning the award, I'll sit back and wait to count those chickens. But he doesn't have to win for the 2012 Aggie story to be complete. In many ways it already is. Back in '96, Shawn Michaels wasn't trying to prove he was the best ever. He was just trying to prove he belonged in that ring with Bret Hart. The Aggies have taken that step, flown down to the ring, and walked the walk. No more tag team partners. No more little brothers. No more shadows. They have proven they can stand tall and compete on the biggest stage in college football. Congrats to the Aggies for daring to dream. What a ride indeed.

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