MAROON OUT ON THE RED CARPET
By Rusty Burson
12th Man Magazine
ORLANDO - The red carpet outside the Atlantic Dance Hall on Disney World’s Boardwalk definitely had a maroon and white flavor on Thursday night prior to the Home Depot College Football Awards, and not just because Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and left tackle Luke Joeckel were among the 27 finalists competing for 11 annual awards at the event.
Aggie fans and former students definitely made themselves at home along the red carpet, with at least 40 vocal and enthusiastic supporters lining the walkway to the Atlantic Dance Hall. No other school had as many fans as A&M, and no other fan base was as loud or noticeable as the contingent from A&M.
The Aggie fans sung the War Hymn a couple of times leading up to the show and they sang happy birthday to Manziel, who turned 20 on Dec. 6, as he walked up the red carpet. Manziel, Joeckel and head coach Kevin Sumlin shook hands with some of the fans, posed for pictures, signed autographs and seemed to thoroughly enjoy the support.
“This is awesome,” Joeckel said of the red carpet fervor as he was waiting to be interviewed by ESPN’s Samantha Steele.
It didn’t happen by chance or simply because so many Aggies reside in Central Florida. It was an example of Aggie organization at its finest, spearheaded by former student and 12th Man Foundation donor Jeff Cassidy, Class of 2004.
During an afternoon break at an oil and gas business convention being held on a Disney World property, Cassidy and a couple of friends wandered over to the Boardwalk at about 2 p.m. to see which college football players were being interviewed by ESPN’s College Football Live.
As fate would have it, Joeckel was on the stage being interviewed by ESPN’s Dari Nowkhah. Cassidy and his friends applauded Joeckel when he left the stage, and that gave them an idea for later that evening when all the award candidates, along with past and current coaches, other college football dignitaries and hordes of media members, would walk the red carpet.
“We’re attending an Emerson Process Management convention, and my company, Puffer-Sweiven, has a ton of Aggies here,” said Cassidy, who lives in Houston. “We wanted to come over here and see if we could see Johnny or Luke this afternoon, and then we started talking to folks (associated with ESPN along the red carpet), and a producer told us that Johnny is supposed to be interviewed at about 5:45. So, we’re going to try and organize and come back out here to represent Aggieland.
“We have a lot of season ticket holders with us, and I may lead a few yells. I will definitely make sure we are singing the War Hymn. We are going to make sure that our guys feel some genuine Aggie love.”
They did just that, showing up early (around 5 p.m.) and staying until the show started at 7:30. A little more than 30 of the Aggies, including former player Kyle Lednicky, also posed for A&M-affiliated media afterward.
“It’s been a great year to be an Aggie,” said Lednicky, who was part of the 1998 Big 12 championship team at A&M. “I’m really proud of our program, our players and our coaches. This is shaping up to be a really good run for years to come.”