Texas A&M had its ‘Rudy’ moment.
With less than a minute left in the fourth quarter, redshirt sophomore Nick Starkel handed the ball redshirt senior and 12th Man Cullen Gillaspia who ran it in to the end zone from 13 yards out to score the first and final touchdown of his career.
Following the win, Gillaspia said it was a one of a kind experience.
"[There's] nothing like it," Gillasipa said. "The offensive line opened up some great holes for me. It was there I didn't have to do too much. Finally getting to cross that goal line, was a really cool deal."
Gillaspia is the only 12th Man to score a touchdown in school history.
"Not necessarily to me, but to all the great 12s that have come before me for the original Jackie Sherrill 12th Man team to all the way to now [and] what it has become. It's a huge honor to get to wear that number and I'm glad I got it for my self but at the end of the day its for the student body."
With the touchdown, the Aggies capped off a 52-13 victory over NC State to win the 2018 Gator Bowl Monday night in Jacksonville, Florida.
The tradition of the 12th Man was born in 1922 when the Aggies were facing Centre College in the Dixie Classic. With several players out due to injury, E. King Gill – who was in the press box helping identify players — was called to the sidelines by then-A&M head coach Dana X. Bible.
According to the legend — and the Aggie Traditions website maintained by the university — Bible asked Gill to suit up and stand on the sidelines. With the bench completely empty, Gill stood on the sidelines waiting to be called into the game.
Although Gill’s name was never called to go into the game, his story became one of A&M’s greatest and most recognizable traditions. Now, the student body stands at A&M games a representation of the Aggie Spirit Gill embodied on that day.
On the football team, a walk-on football player is named the 12th Man. The player has the honor of wearing the No. 12 jersey and representing the thousands of students in the stands.
For Aaron Santos, Class of 2017, seeing Gillasipa score a touchdown was a representation of the student body.
“[The] Aggie Spirit and the fire in every Aggie that will do anything to win,” Santos said.
Austin Simmang, Class of 2018, said Gillaspia’s late game touchdown wasn’t just for Gillaspia, but for all the students, current and former watching.
“Cullen didn’t score that TD for Cullen,” Simmang said. “He scored that TD for every single person in those stands, sitting in front of their TVs. He didn’t want that TD, he wanted US to have that TD.”
What does Cullen Gillaspia mean to you? Respond below.— Angel Madison Franco (@angelmadison_) January 1, 2019