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November 24, 2008Texas A&M head coach Mike Sherman has been on the sideline of a Texas A&M-Texas rivalry game before. During his tenure as offensive line coach at A&M from 1989093 and again from 1995-96, Sherman saw the Aggies go 4-3 against the Longhorns.
Thursday's Lone Star Showdown may be his first in the series as a head coach, but Sherman knows what the rivalry is all about.
"There is a lot of that pregame pageantry and tradition, and that's probably what I remember the most," Sherman said. "I think the biggest thing that I see is the fact that we're talking about Texas high school football, and I think Thursday night the nation will get a chance to see Texas high school football at its finest in just the fact that 18 of 22 from the state of Texas at the University of Texas and 21 out of 22 here at A&M are from the state of Texas. It's a great testimony for Texas high school football. A lot of these kids obviously played or played with each other, maybe on the same team or played against each other through the course of the season or in the playoffs as high school is currently in today."
Although Sherman is well versed in the A&M-Texas rivalry, the majority of his coaches are new to the game. Defensive backs coach Van Malone played for Texas and coached A&M the past two seasons, defensive line coach Buddy Wyatt coached at A&M from 2000-02 and special teams/tight ends coach Kirk Doll coached the Aggies' linebackers from 1988-93.
But for the rest with heavy NFL ties, the rivalry will be a new experience Thursday. For A&M defensive coordinator Joe Kines, it'll be another of the great college football rivalries that he can point to as games he's coached in over his 36-year coaching career. Over his career he's coached in the Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn, the Biggest Outdoor Cocktail Party between Georgia and Florida from each sideline at different times in his career, and for Florida State against Florida and Miami. Adding the Lone Star Showdown to his resume, however, is one of the games he's looking forward to.
"Anytime you're facing your in-state rival in this magnitude, God really blessed me with my career the opportunity to stand on most sidelines in some really big end of the season rivalries," Kines said. "This one probably because of when it's played and the tradition has to rank as one of the best in the country and right up there in the top two or three. Thanksgiving night, those that can still waddle over will sit down and watch. Some will eat themselves into oblivion, but there will be a bunch of them watching. It's exciting to be a part of it."
The new participants to the rivalry won't just be among the coaching staff as the Aggies have started 11 freshmen over the course of the season and underclassmen dominate the starting lineup on both sides of the ball. Growing up in Texas, the Lone Star Showdown is always a huge game that everyone, no matter the allegiances, watching on Thanksgiving weekend.
The aura of the game, however, is already seeping into the locker room and to the players on and off the practice field. Even though the Aggies are sitting at a disappointing 4-7 while the Longhorns are 10-1 and looking to cap off a regular season that can advance them to the Big 12 championship game and possibly beyond, this rivalry will bring out the best in both sides like it usually does. Rankings and records don't matter, and the youngest Aggies are already sensing that feeling.
"There is just something in the air around here when the Texas game comes around. You want to be fired up for every game, but when that Texas game comes around (you just are)," said A&M freshman free safety Trent Hunter. "The coaches every week say we have to prepare and we have to have the attitude to go out and win, but for this game the coaches never have to say that. It's just in the air or something."
Sherman, however, knows all about the game and still can't get enough of it. Thursday night will be his return to the greatest stage in Texas football, and he'll be ushering in a hefty load of newcomers.
"But certainly at the end point of the season the traditions and history, it's the third-oldest rivalry in the country, and when you think about all these games over the years this is special," Sherman said. "It's in the national spotlight on the greatest day as far as football is concerned on Thanksgiving. It's an honor to play this football game and to coach in it. I'm honored to be coaching this game."