Yesterday, Texas A&M regent Jim Schwertner made headlines after saying the new Kyle Field should be renamed “Kyle Field: The House that Johnny Built.”
“I hope the Aggie Nation will come together and decide that’s something they want to do. Think about this – the last time we had a Heisman Trophy winner was John Kimbrough.”
Aggie enthusiasts are quick to note that John Kimbrough led A&M to its sole national championship in 1939; however, he never won the Heisman. When asked if Schwertner meant John David Crow, he quickly corrected himself. Jim Schwertner went on to say,
“It’s going to be up to the students and former students to decide that. That would sure be a real testament about how great that young man was for this university. My vote would be yes, but there are a lot of other folks who will have a vote on what I just said.”
There is no doubt that Johnny Manziel was great for Texas A&M University. He was captivating on the field and the excitement he generated played a big role in the alumni donations that flooded in. Those same alumni donations spearheaded the $450 Million renovation project of Kyle Field. But to change the name of Kyle Field to “The House that Johnny Built” would be very nearsighted. A&M prides itself in its tradition and its football history extends well beyond the past two years.
In 1904, Edwin Kyle donated a section of land, bought a grandstand for $650, and built wooden bleachers to promote the A&M athletics department. This was the very beginning of the stadium and it raised the seating capacity to 500 people. In 1908, the students unofficially named the athletic field Kyle Field in his honor.
In 1917, the Aggies finished the season 8-0 and outscored their opponents 270-0. Then in 1919, A&M outscored their opponents 275-0 finishing 10-0 on the season.
In 1922, Coach Dana X Bible led his team against defending national champion Centre College in the Dixie Classic (now known as the Cotton Bowl). As the injuries piled up in the first half, Dana called on former football player E. King Gill to suit up. Although Gill never played, his willingness to help his team when they needed him most inspired one of the greatest traditions college football has ever seen, the 12th Man.
In 1939 and following the induction of the AP Poll, A&M notched its sole national championship. Coach Homer Norton led the team to an 11-0 record and a 14-13 win over Tulane in the Sugar Bowl.
From 1917 to 1998, A&M produced 18 conference championships. Madison “Matty” Bell, Dana X. Bible, Homer H. Norton, Bear Bryant, Gene Stallings, and R.C. Slocum all coached for A&M and all were later inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame for coaches. 52 Aggies have garnered First Team All-American honors, 10 were inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame for players, and 2 (including Johnny Manziel) have won the coveted Heisman Trophy.
Ever since 1915, A&M has called 3 different conferences home. Between 1915 and 1995, the Aggies played in the Southwest Conference. Following the breakup of that conference, A&M emerged as a founding member in the Big 12 Conference. And with the incredible guidance of former A&M president Bowen Loftin, A&M now finds itself in the Southeastern Conference.
A&M boasts a rich football history filled with great traditions and plenty of accomplishments. It is true that the Aggies have had some success recently and the fan base fervor seems to be at an all-time high. But how much of the past two seasons have been amplified by the underwhelming seasons with Coach Fran and Coach Sherman? With BAS at an all-time high, Aggies everywhere just wanted something or someone to bring back hope.
The problem though is that A&M has not yet won anything of any consequence with Manziel at the helm. He did not lead A&M to a National Championship, Conference Championship, or even a Division Championship. As amazing as he was, the Aggies were still only 4-4 in conference play last year. True much of that had to do with our defense. But we cannot give him all the credit, and turn around and blame the rest of the team for any shortcomings. Football has and always will be a team sport. And prior Aggie TEAMS have accomplished much more than both Johnny Manziel led squads.
That being said, Manziel will undoubtedly go down as the greatest player to ever wear an Aggie uniform. His individual achievements and honors certainly merit this claim. But so much credit goes to his supporting cast. First there was Bowen Loftin for having the foresight and resolve to get A&M out of the Big 12 and into the best conference in the nation. Then there was Texas Longhorn kicker Justin Tucker for kicking a game winning field goal in the final seconds of the last Lone Star Showdown. This kick led to the ultimate dismissal of Mike Sherman and the subsequent hiring of Kevin Sumlin. And before the start of A&M’s 2012 season opener, Manziel was one of the least known starting quarterbacks in all of college football. Most people expected Jameill Showers to win the starting job, but Sumlin made a risky move and picked the less known and recently arrested Johnny Manziel to lead A&M. Perhaps most important was A&M’s defense in 2012. With several seniors leading the defensive unit, the Aggies proved to be a complete team with Sumlin’s explosive offense and a serviceable defense. Without it, Johnny would not have beat Alabama and earned himself a marquee win that catapulted him into winning the Heisman Trophy.
In all, Bowen delivered the biggest college football stage with the move to the SEC. Sumlin provided Johnny Manziel the opportunity. And finally, A&M’s defense proved pivotal in clinching the Bama win and an 11-2 record in 2012. Without each piece, Johnny would not have won the Heisman or many of his other accolades. Johnny Manziel will be remembered as a great part of our history, but he is not THE history.
Great football players have come and gone, and so have great coaches. Conference affiliations continue to change and the stadium grows bigger each decade. But the namesake Kyle Field captures our schools rich history, and the 12th Man our great tradition. A&M’s football stadium is and always should be “Kyle Field: Home of the 12th Man.”