Welcome to the Lockr Room. The youngest student-athlete to ever play quarterback for a major college football team, former Texas A&M star David ‘Moon’ Walker, provides his weekly insights on the Aggies and the SEC.
Lockr Room Legends Q&A: David “Moon” Walker, 12th Man QB
Perhaps the initial response to the Alabama victory should be a resounding “Whoop!” I mean, through eleven weeks of chronicling this historical season for the Aggie crowd, the SEC and Gamedayr, I have yet to say it in print. Our three SEC wins each certainly deserved big “Whoops!”
It’s like the “happy” feeling that suddenly springs from deep inside our guts, sometimes seemingly without reason. Last week as I was moving my daughter to California for her next nursing job, she experienced this “feeling” just as we entered her new neighborhood. It’s a sense of excitement, wonderment and security all rolled into one, and like a small upward tidal wave it blossoms inside you for one euphoric moment. It’s always there waiting for its opportunity, but is totally involuntary — you cannot force it. And it happens often on occasions when you least expect it.
The “Whoop” is very similar in this regard, yet in this case, it doesn’t end with one pleasurable leap to the heart. No, it just repeats and repeats and repeats, over and over again. It is pure unadulterated joy and adrenaline, almost to the point of hyperventilation. And it has STAYING Power, the human equivalent of emotional endurance you wish could last a lifetime. Perhaps it will.
[SI’s Andy Staples is all-aboard the Johnny Football bandwagon]
“Whoop!” doesn’t end when you greet the team at the Bright Complex after they arrive at Easterwood Airport, as thousands of us did. You hear the great Stevie Ray Vaughan on the loud speakers, along with “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” and even our old standby, “Bad to the Bone” to complete the festivities. Coach Sumlin and senior receiver Ryan Swope thank the crowd as it roars with approval. The spirit is awesome.
The “Whoop” inside you doesn’t end when you return home either, because all you want to do is hit “play” on the DVR deep into the night – or watch the broadcasters in their major analytics mode trying to properly box it all up, as if they could.
Not this one, guys. There are too many minute details to cover in the short amount of air time allotted.
It’s just TOO BIG.
The NFL is on TV the following day but you’re an SEC fan now. The NFL somehow falls short in your interest level and priorities. “Maybe I’ll just watch the game one more time,” you say. On Saturdays now, even before your A&M game begins or when the game is over, nothing but the SEC is showing on your TV. You’re hooked. THIS is college football. THIS trumps everything you’ve ever seen in your lifetime. Everything else in college football is deemed irrelevant and boring.
Sure, tell me how wonderful Collin Klein and Kansas State are if you’d like. I recall thinking the same thing…last season. To be honest, I haven’t laid eyes on him or his team at all this season.
Number One now, are they? Perhaps I’ll catch the Kansas State – Texas game in a couple of weeks. Wait. I haven’t seen the ‘Horns play either. Nope, not a single down. I’ll be darned if I even have any idea what their record is. I’m like Denzel’s daughter in the movie “Remember the Titans.”
I don’t care.
But back to Kansas State, Collin is very talented and a great leader playing for the most sentimental of favorites as a Coach of the Year as you’ll ever find in Bill Snyder. Coach Bill was through with coaching years ago but was asked to return and the results have been fabulous for the Wildcats. They are the Wildcats, right? I mean no disrespect, rest assured, but tunnel-vision through these Maroon-colored glasses is a mean affliction…but I love it. Trust me, I played Kansas State myself when they were in the Big 8. We went on 90 and 95 yard drives against them without breaking a sweat. This is kind of how their football life-span has gone. The last impact player I can recall from Kansas State was quarterback Lynn Dickey, who was extremely good, although I liked him in the 60s primarily because he wore white cleats.
Alabama’s quarterback hadn’t been shown up by an opposing quarterback but once in 22 starts and he made amends for that slight in last year’s BCS championship game. (Actually it took two LSU quarterbacks to beat him but that’s a story for another day.) That’s a whole lot of games to walk over to the other sidelines to console the losing quarterback, shake his hand and tell him, “Better luck next time.”
A.J. McCarron is a winner and once was considered a top Heisman Trophy candidate. In fact, I’m quite sure he was about to make a giant leap into New York for some high-fives and back-slaps when DeRidder, La. native Deshazor Everett stepped in front of his 4th down throw and potentially derailed ‘Bama’s national title intentions, and with them, A.J.’s Heisman Trophy hopes. Suddenly the big LSU drive from the previous game they were showing up on the scoreboard seemed like it was from another dimension.
I recall the long desperation bomb Doug Flutie completed to beat the Miami Hurricanes years ago, and when Everett came away with that football inside the Alabama end zone I jumped up out of my chair in the same manner I had then. Unbelievable. It was astounding because of its complete unexpectedness. All logic said both teams were beaten until the final play.
The play Alabama called after failing on three consecutive tries to get to the end zone was a sure thing in my book. Alabama put a receiver in motion to the right and had another receiver already there assigned to the defensive back covering the receiver in motion. He would “accidentally” make incidental contact with the defensive back who was chasing the motion receiver and thus free his teammate to run to the outside area, breaking wide open. The quarterback sprints out to the side and flips a pass to his receiver, normally an easy target.
I’ve watched Steve Young, Joe Montana, Big Ben, Drew Brees, Aaron Rogers, you name ‘em –when they’re near the goal line or in need of a first down — this is the play you commonly see from them. Some teams run it without a “pick” receiver because it’s so hard to cover as it is. A quick break “up and out” by the motion receiver usually leaves any strong safety just a step behind in the “flat” and the quarterback with an easy shot.
Let me put it this way: On the college and professional level and in all my years as a quarterback and coach, I cannot recall seeing this play result in a single incompletion in a game. Not one! This is why Nick Saban’s play-caller made the decision. It’s money in the bank. On their “situation sheet” they’d prepared before game time, this play was the one the staff had decided during the week was the one they would win with when the time came.
This great read and interception by Deshazor Everett will forever live in the memory and historical annals of Aggie football. Suddenly the Wrecking Crew’s four stops of Auburn’s Bo Jackson in the Cotton Bowl seem to pale in comparison. Shutting down Earl Campbell and Number 5 Texas in 1975 to maintain the Number 2 ranking and an unblemished 10-0 record now seem like ancient history. The National Championship won 35 years prior to my touching foot on the A&M campus was as long ago to me then as my own playing days are to student-athletes now. We’re only spectators and well-wishers now, living vicariously through them and their exploits.
Inside four magical downs of defense, after surrendering the bomb a play earlier that would surely seal our collective fates, all eras would instantaneously become irrelevant to the NOW that is occurring.
[Must Watch Video: Texas A&M players return to HUGE welcoming party from the 12th Man]
As I was tweeting the play-by-play for fellow Aggies in different parts of the world and Louisiana friends who were part of the Tiger Stadium crowd at LSU, I tweeted the following before the final Alabama series: “What a game. Alabama just went 94 yards…now they’re 60 yards away with 4:24 left…long ball to the 6…Goal line stand, baby. Let’s go!”
And we did. We gave the heroic effort necessary to come out on top in a very hostile environment. As a side note, every one of my LSU friends heaped praise on our Aggie football team. They loved it.
I see now that “tradition” is reinventing itself and taking on a life of its own. It’s growing stronger and larger, and is being noticed by everyone in this country. Since I carry the torch here for the 70’s players and am the youngest quarterback to ever play the college game, I think I speak for everybody from the dawning of the modern era in college football at Texas A&M when I say, “We love the effort and the class with which you play and represent yourselves and our university. We love your bravado, toughness and skill. You play like we did; you take it to ‘em and we’re extremely proud — but this is your day.”
Damontre Moore continues to lead this defense in solo tackles and ranks third in the country among defensive linemen. He ranks second overall in tackles for losses with 2 per game, just percentage points behind linebacker Jarvis Jones of Georgia, and Damontre is third in the country in quarterback sacks.
The Aggies are giving up 21.3 points per game which is 27th nationally. In a season of instant offense, it is this former quarterback’s opinion that it’s the defense that has played well enough to win every game. Trust me; it’s been quite some time since anyone has been able to make this observation so intensely. Our punting game has also been outstanding. We’ve punted 30 times while giving up only 39 yards in returns. Our net punting average of 41.6 is 4th in the country.
Johnny Manziel and Baylor quarterback Nick Florence continue to battle it out for the national Total Offense crown with Johnny, despite playing the Number 1 defense in the country, closing the gap between the two to 15 yards per game. While the new storyline is “Johnny Football Manziel for Heisman,” there is another current situation that many of us only dared dream would become reality; “Alabama remains in position to win the SEC West by beating rival Auburn on Nov. 24, or by seeing the Aggies lose to Missouri on Nov. 23.”
That’s right; we’re the only two in the hunt.
We played Saturday like the West Division depended on it, and it did. Johnny led the offense to 4 of 5 Red Zone scores against Alabama, the team that had led the country in Red Zone defense for most of the year and was ranked third going into the A&M matchup. The first three penetrations into the Crimson Tide’s Red Zone produced touchdowns. The crowd seemed completely unnerved by the quick-strike, Stun Gun attack.
“We weren’t stunned at all,” Tide linebacker C.J. Mosley said, with a straight face. “As a defense, we knew they were going to make plays, that’s what their offense depends on. They got a great quarterback; they got a great running back. We just have to settle down and play Alabama football.”
I saw a great display of spirit and confidence when the team came out for the second half, seemingly clinging to a 20-14 lead. They were jumping up and down, yelling and screaming into the night, as if momentum was still clearly on the side of the guys in the white hats. They were at an emotional peak in the face of over 101,000 fans and a national TV audience that has grown accustomed to seeing them cough up double-digit leads. And finally, there was the ghost of Bear Bryant himself, herding them all together for the inevitable slaughter to come.
Seen walking away from the Aggie team’s bedlam with a big smile on his face was none other than the head man himself, Kevin Sumlin. Yes, this team had grown into men through the harshness of earlier costly mistakes and was ready to step into the light. Despite the odds makers’ and broadcasters’ and sportswriters’ low regard for them and their ‘gimmicky’ style, their undisciplined quarterback and the sudden turn of events on the field, these football players never even flinched. Preparation plus Enthusiasm determines Performance…down to the very last play. If games are indeed won before they’re ever played, then days can be won before they’re ever lived.
[Johnny football has ascended to the top of the Heisman rankings]
Bowl predictions are coming out now as the general public anticipates the Aggies completing the regular season at 10-2. They’re excluding us from a shot at the Sugar Bowl simply because Alabama just has no chance at all of losing to Auburn. Some have us leap-frogging other conference members and being invited to the Fiesta Bowl, most likely to play Big 12 runner-up, Oklahoma, the other Number 1 team the Aggies have defeated in their history.
First there’s business to be taken care of here in 12th Man Stadium, and that is Sam Houston State and Missouri. I’ve yet to see us come out of the tunnel not ready to play, so there is no reason to start fretting now. As I said after our SMU game about Johnny Manziel, stop critiquing and begin appreciating him. He will be gone in a flash, much too soon. It’s all in front of him, us and our football team.
Winning a three-game road swing for the first time since ’75 would normally be a strong enough statement, but to top it off by whipping the defending champions on their own home turf, well, that’s just darn near a Mission Impossible that we just accomplished.
Like Coach says, “No moment is too big.” I can’t tell you how important it is to hear and feel this on a football team. The classiest and the smartest thing this head coach and his offensive coordinator have done is simply allow Johnny Manziel to lead. There are a lot of coaches whose egos don’t allow this. We’re very fortunate.
Our goal now is to finish at least in the Top 5, a feat not accomplished at Texas A&M since 1956 when Bear Bryant’s near perfect 9-0-1 squad. Adding only seven Top 10 finishes since then has left the school hungry for more success –and thankful and extremely excited for this opportunity.
Pardon the Swagger; we’re coming through.
– David “Moon” Walker, Author of “I’ll Tell You When You’re Good! – The Memoir of America’s Youngest College Quarterback” (www.12thManQB.com)
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