For Zachary Lawrence at Texas A&M, Aggie roots run deep. Extremely deep.
The fifth-generation Aggie from Shiner says he is proud to come from a long line of A&M graduates. But the head yell leader has a unique tie to Aggie history: Lawrence is the great-great grandson of John Archibald McIver, the first student to enroll at A&M when its doors opened in 1876.
"I never wanted to brag about being related to the first Aggie," Lawrence said. "It was something that was cool, but the only way it would ever come up would be if someone brought it up."
According to the senior psychology major, a family friend brought his ancestry to the attention of A&M officials through social media in the fall of 2013. His parents, Tres and Cindy Lawrence, are both A&M graduates, class of 1989.
As Lawrence and his family tell the tale, the 16-year-old McIver rode in on horseback from his hometown of Caldwell to register for classes at the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas in 1876.
The history-making moment was actually a result of bad timing, Lawrence said.
"He got there and was ready to register, and they tell him, 'I'm sorry, but registration is not until tomorrow,'" he said. "He hadn't planned to stay the night, so he decided to just camp out under a tree. Apparently, it was right next to the registration tent. So the next day, he was the first one there."
According to an article in Texas Aggie by Lane Stephenson, A&M's director of news and information services, the Catalog of Students from the first session of classes, found in the Cushing Memorial Library, lists a James Archibald McIver from Caldwell alphabetically with 105 other students. "James" was changed to "John" the following year, when record keepers realized their mistake, Lawrence said.
McIver's granddaughter, Patsy, married Allen S. Lawrence Jr., class of 1964. Allen and Patsy are Lawrence's paternal grandparents.
The ties to McIver didn't influence his decision to come to A&M, Lawrence said, and he didn't include the information on resumes or admission applications.
Lawrence's goal when he arrived on campus was to follow in his brother's footsteps, he said. Ryan Lawrence, class of 2012, was a member of the Parsons Mounted Calvary in the Corps of Cadets. Once the selection process for yell leader began his sophomore year, Lawrence said he changed his mind.
"I didn't come to A&M thinking I was going to try out for yell leader," Lawrence said. "It was something that I thought wouldn't be attainable. Yell leader was always something that would be really great to do, and I never wanted to look back and think to myself, 'What if I had tried it?'"
Lawrence expects to graduate in December 2016 with a degree in psychology and a minor in history, with hopes of becoming a sports psychologist. His family history still serves as motivation, he said.
"Whenever I'm a yell leader, I always try to remind myself of where I come from," Lawrence said. "If it weren't for the sacrifices of John Archie, my grandparents and my mom and dad, I wouldn't be here. The best way for me to repay them is just to make sure when I'm representing Texas A&M, I also represent my family, and try to uphold their high values and standards they set for me."