Jimbo Gives 12th Man New Meaning, a la Tommy Lewis

Lyn Scarbrough

September 27, 2023 at 11:30 pm.

Texas A&M credits the legendary 12th Man when it has success on the football field. That tradition started way back in 1922 when walk-on player King Gill suited up to be ready when needed.

Actually, it may have been Alabama that gave the 12th man tradition its earliest national prominence, back in 1954. That’s when Tommy Lewis, a fullback from rural Greenville, Ala., ran onto the field as Dicky Moegle of Rice streaked along the Alabama sideline on a long touchdown run in the Cotton Bowl Classic. The Tide’s 12th man tackled Moegle on the play; Rice was rewarded the score; and Alabama lost, 28-6. (Ironically, the Bama’s only touchdown had been scored by Lewis.)

When Aggie head coach Jimbo Fisher coached in Birmingham and in Auburn in the 1990s, he may have heard about what Lewis did. If so, apparently he took it to heart.

On Saturday, the Aggie head coach gave a whole new meaning to the Texas A&M 12th Man tradition.

As Auburn linebacker Eugene Asante streaked along the Texas A&M sideline in the fourth quarter with what would be a Tiger touchdown, he saw nothing but green grass ahead of him, except for one Aggie … Coach Fisher, several yards out onto the playing field.

Robert Griffin III, who was announcing the game for ESPN, couldn’t believe what he was seeing. As the sequence was played over and over, he circled with his Telestrator Fisher on the field.

“It did kind of throw me off a bit,” Asante said. “It was a shocking thing. It was bizarre. To be honest, I’ve never – well, I’ve seen it one time with the NFL, Mike Tomlin. It was a bizarre thing to experience going through.”

Asante was referring to the play on Thanksgiving Day 2013 when Tomlin, the Pittsburgh Steelers head coach, went onto the field during a game against the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones was racing down the sideline with a kickoff return that would for sure be a touchdown … until there Tomlin was on the field, which altered Jones stride, causing him to be caught after running 73 yards.

There were a couple of differences between the two plays.

Asante did dodge Fisher, running between him and the sideline stripe and still scored the touchdown.

Tomlin was fined $100,000 by the NFL for being on the field, potentially endangering the player and disrupting the game. But for Fisher and the Aggies … no penalty flag, no public reprimand, nothing.

A sportswriter for a well-known publication called it a “hilarious sequence.” Apparently the officials on top of the play, who never reached for their flags, seemingly also saw only humor in the situation, too. Not everybody felt that same way.

And, of course, there had to be social media comments, a lot of tongue-in-cheek.

“Jimbo has to make that tackle, inexcusable,” said one Twitter post.

“Stay off the field if you can’t make the play,” said another poster.

Not to be outdone, a Facebook poster said, “Come on Coach, you’re making us look ridiculous.”

“They let us have 12 without a penalty. Can we go for 13?” asked another.

And, there was at least one who actually took the rules and the potential hazard and disruption seriously … “Out on the field during a touchdown run, no flag, no penalty, just like that’s acceptable. Really!”

As ridiculous as Fisher looked out on the field, his explanation for being there was just as comical.

“I thought the ball was in front of me and obviously he (Asante) was running around the corner,” he said, an explanation that probably raised more eyebrows than provided clarification.

Then he said, “I thought the play was dead and I was yelling at somebody else on the side and the ball is coming back my way.

“I mean, it ain’t supposed to happen. I’m lucky I didn’t get ran over.” (He actually said that. You can’t make this stuff up.)

Maybe the most memorable explanation for that type thing came from Lewis after he had put himself on the field in that 1954 Cotton Bowl game.

After the game, he told reporters in the dressing room, “I guess I’m just too full of Alabama.”

Let’s leave it to social media posters for any comparative comments that might be made to that one.

The Texas A&M 12th Man is one of the great traditions in college athletics. According to the web site, the power of the Aggie 12th Man is echoed in “the unity, the loyalty and the willingness of Aggies to serve when called on to do so.”

The 12th Man was for sure willing on Saturday and this new chapter in the tradition will be remembered and talked about for many seasons to come.