12th Man Spirit is What We Need Today

Published: March 9, 2009

Everybody needs a little feel-good from time to time in these perilous times. So I’m reposting this blog from Alice Linehan talking about the 12th Man spirit needed to carry us through. Enjoy.

After posting Where have all the 12th Men Gone???? I had a really cool thing happen.

The Jackie Sherrill e-mailed me. A friend of mine knows him and passed on my post. It is not everyday that you get an e-mail from someone like Jackie Sherrill. I thought that was amazing but then what happened next blew me away.

I received a link to the blog post below. After reading the story over and over because tears were flowing it occurred to me we have got to get this story out. After asking Coach Sherrill and Snakeye for permission to share their story here it is.

I believe with all my heart that our country needs to come together and fight for freedom for ourselves and our children. It is time for regular folks to come down from the stands and take the position of the “12th Man”. The game ahead cannot be won by our military alone, we are being attacked from within.   My prayer is that  Americans will “Wake Up” and realize that too many have fought for our freedom and we must not allow that to be in vain. I believe sharing this story can start the “12th Man call for Freedom”. We need to get more than Aggie fans to join in we need all Americans to join the “12th Man Call for Freedom”. I need you to help me get the word out. Please feel free to repost, e-mail, contact the press. It is time for a change in America and it must come from you and me my friends. Do you have the guts and the courage to be the builders of the bonfire and the keepers of the flame.

Cookie is watching and I want him to be proud!!! Thank you Snakeye for placing the 12th Medallion exactly where it was suppose to go!! Thank you Coach Sherrill for your example of giving back just a little can make a huge difference.

The 12th Medallion

Posted by Snakeye

the 12th MedallionMy Old Man was at a Texas A&M Alumni barbeque back in August. He ended up bumping into Jackie Sherrill, the Aggies’ head football coach from 1982 to 1988. Ironically, he was the head coach of Mississippi State from 1991 until his retirement in 2003. I say “ironically” because in 2001/2002, I was stationed at Columbus AFB down yonder in ‘Sippi: only a 30 minute drive (or a 10 minute crotchrocket ride at that time in my life) from Starkville, the home of Mississippi State. I knew a few people that went there for college and was able to attend my fair share of Mississippi State football games.

More in-depth information on Coach Sherrill can be found here, but I’ll point out the highlights in relation to the topic at hand. The longstanding A&M “12th man” tradition started in 1922, when a majority of Texas A&M’s football team suffered injuries. During a post-season game, the coach called into the stands for the ex-players that had moved on from football; he needed their help to ensure the team had enough healthy players to field 11-strong. The school rallied behind this idea: to field players chosen from the student body, essentially creating a bond of ownership and pride in the football team school-wide. Though the concept of calling the crowd to play is somewhat gone today, Texas A&M still takes pride in her “12th man” spirit. Only it has changed over the years to imply the fans are the 12th man: the students embody that spirit that gives the team momentum when they need it most and help carry the team to victory.

By the time Coach Sherrill had left the team in 1988, he accumulated a winning record of 52 wins, 28 losses and 1 tie. But where he really left his mark was in applying the 12th man concept to bolster the team: he composed his kickoff team of volunteer walk-ons, instead of the traditional recruited players. This became known as the “12th Man Kickoff Team,” or the “suicide squad” to outsiders. The 12th Man Kickoff Team was feared by the opposing teams. It gave the A&M students who participated a one shot chance for glory, and they tended to make a tackle at all costs with complete disregard to personal safety. The program was a success in that it held opponents to one of the lowest yards-per-return averages in the NCAA.

Now back to the point: while at the alumni barbeque, my Old Man and Jackie Sherrill were talking about the Aggies, college football, and life in general. My Dad briefly mentioned that I was about to embark on my 3rd overseas rotation. Jackie Sherrill gave my Dad a coin to give to me: the one pictured above… a piece of metal with a stamped angel on it, to watch over me and return me safely home.

He told my Dad to ensure he got it in my hands prior to the deployment and to pass onto me that he’s thinking of the troops and supports us, and to wish me good luck and Godspeed. He also informed my Dad that he only gives a limited amount of these coins out: up to this point he’d given out 11 of the coins to various military soldiers he’d met, and up to this point they had all made it safely back stateside to return the coin so another soldier could have the same protection bestowed upon him.

Coincidentally, the coin he gave my Old Man was the 12th coin – analogous to the “12th Man” legacy he revived with the Texas A&M football team. As I write this enroute back to the States, that coin has provided me with ample protection. Pending a major catastrophe, I’m set to see my lovely wife and new son in 48 hours or less.

Unfortunately, not everyone in my unit will get to enjoy the same reunion. A little under a month ago, our team took a casualty… one of the guys that I had become pretty good friends with throughout the deployment. Though I can’t get into too many details, we tried all we could to stabilize his wounds inflicted from enemy contact. He didn’t make it… and was pronounced “KIA” early in the morning on 6Jan09.

“Cookie” (as he was affectionately known) was the type that was friends with everyone. I spent many a night shooting the breeze with him, talking of family, finances, military service and this conflict. In fact, I had high-fived him with a “good luck” 2 hours prior to the incident on that fateful night.

Cookie was a down-to-earth dude that everyone liked. He’d seen plenty in his service, including more of the Middle East than most soldiers see… a fun-loving military professional. I know the unit and his friends sorely miss him; I miss him. I can only imagine how the family he left behind feels.

I think back that perhaps I should’ve passed the coin around. Who knows. Woulda, shoulda, coulda. Everyone did all they could that night. Regardless…

Mr. Sherrill: I thank you for the coin given to protect me. I regret to inform you that you won’t be getting the 12th coin back. I felt it fitting to slip it in Cookie’s flag-covered casket prior to it going back Stateside. Though it may not protect him anymore in the Earthly form, its angel is with Cookie with a watchful eye over him now. I assure you Cookie will carry on the 12th man spirit in this unit – just as the 12th man gives unspoken momentum to the Aggie football team.

Cookie: rest in peace my friend. Thank you for “keeping it real.” I’m so sorry you couldn’t make it back; I was looking forward to going sea fishing with you. I promise that you, and what you stood for, will not be forgotten.

Last modified: March 9, 2009 at 3:53 pm | Originally published: March 9, 2009 at 3:53 pm
Printed: September 25, 2020