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Updated 6:45 AM on Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Citadel punter returns home for A&M game Citadel punter returns home for A&M game

When The Citadel Bulldogs take the field before some 80,000 fans at Texas A&M's Kyle Field on Saturday night, at least one of them will have been there before.

The Bulldogs' sophomore punter, Mark Kaspar, played his high school football in Navasota, and was a frequent attendee at Kyle Field. He has one word to describe one of the more storied game-day atmospheres in college football:

Intimidating.

"It is a very intimidating atmosphere, especially if you are on the opposing team," said Kaspar, who lived in College Station until the seventh grade when he moved to Navasota. "You are backed up against the student section. It's a three-story stadium, and they are whooping and hollering the whole time.

"It's a real intimidating place to be. It's very loud, to say the least."

Clemson has "The Hill" and South Carolina its "2001" entrance. But Texas A&M probably leads the nation in football traditions. Among them:

• The 12th man. The student body stands throughout the game to represent the team's "12th man." Former coach Jackie Sherrill even had a 12th man kickoff team, composed of regular students who tried out for the team.

• Midnight Yell Practice. On the night before home games, yell leaders - three seniors and two juniors elected by the student body - lead the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band and the 12th man into the stadium, and lead the crowd of more than 20,000 in old army yells and the War Hymn. When the lights go out, feel free to kiss your date.

• If Texas A&M wins the game, the yell leaders are carried across campus and thrown into the Fish Pond. If the Aggies lose, everyone stays in Kyle Field to sing the "Twelfth Man Song."

• There's also "Reveille," a collie who is the school mascot, and the "Boot Line," in which seniors line up to welcome the team back on the field after halftime.

One former Aggie tradition, the Bonfire, turned tragic in 1999, when the massive stack of several thousand logs collapsed, killing 12 students and injuring at least 27 others.

Like The Citadel and Virginia Military Institute, Texas A&M has a Corps of Cadets, about 2,000 men and women who are part of the student body. Texas A&M was a military college for most of its first 100 years, and many of the school's traditions have their roots in the Corps. As at The Citadel, membership in the Corps carries no military obligation.

A&M boasts that the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band is the "world's largest military marching band" and has "never lost a halftime." Senior cadets are allowed to wear "Senior Boots."

Said Kaspar, "A lot of the seniors, they get to stand on the sideline and cheer on the team. The rest of the Corps, they get to bring their girlfriends in and sit in the first section to support the team."

Among Texas A&M's biggest fans was Gen. George S. Patton, who supposedly said, "Give me an army of West Point graduates, and I'll win a battle. Give me a handful of Texas Aggies, and I'll win a war."

Or at least a football game.

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