Hard work pays off for Corps of Cadets on gameday

Caelan Cheshire (center) and other cadets in the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band cheer on the Aggies against Auburn on Saturday.

The faint sound of drums and horns coming from the direction of the Quad sent thousands of Aggie fans and Auburn fans alike to line up along the Memorial Student Center toward Kyle Field.

With cellphone cameras in hand and the sounds drawing nearer, they waited eagerly, not for the football team they had come to support, but for the Corps of Cadets and the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band.

"We're one of the few college bands in the country that gets an ovation before we even perform," said head drum major Steven Hering of the reception the band receives as it prepares to take the field at halftime.

"It's a very humbling experience having all these people yelling for you," he added later.

In reality, the band, with the rest of the Corps in tow, got a kind of ovation before even entering the stadium for Saturday's game.

The spirit that entered the field with the cadets 90 minutes before kickoff didn't wane during the 45-41 loss to the Auburn Tigers.

From the cadets in the stands, to the band, to the early-waking members of the Parsons Mounted Cavalry, to Reveille's handlers and to the senior Officers of the Day guarding the field, the 2,390 "Keepers of the Spirit" did just that.

Gameday festivities for the cadets start with a 6 a.m. Corps Run on Friday followed by Midnight Yell Practice, barbecues and the popular march into the stadium on Saturday. To prepare for the halftime show, the band practices for about an hour and a half six days a week, while the Cavalry does another two and half hours of work with the horses and mules during weekdays.

"You're supposed to be the pulse and heartbeat of Aggieland, so a lot goes into coming to a game, but it's also a lot of fun," said sophomore cadet Rafael Mogolian. "It's more of a privilege because you get to see the game from a good view and get to experience the crowd. Not many people can say that."

While the Corps Block provides great views, it's the members of the cavalry and the Officers of the Day who enjoy the game just a few feet from the action.

"It feels like you're the spearhead of the yell," said Squadron 3 senior Caleb Shearer as the student section waved its towels behind him.

Guarding the field, the eight officers, donning green hats and a zip-tied saber, called some plays among themselves and offered advice as the Aggies moved down the field.

Shearer's excitement was obvious as wide receiver Mike Evans caught a touchdown pass just feet away from him with about four minutes left in the third quarter.

"You get to see things like that!" he said, eyes wide, explaining the privilege offered to seniors in the outfits that raise the most money during the March to the Brazos in the spring.

In the south end zone, the cavalry's cannon crew kept a close eye on the game while posing for pictures with Aggies of all ages and even some curious Auburn fans.

After each scoring drive, the junior members of the cannon crew fired the 1902 Howitzer with the supervision of the seniors.

The cavalry is made up of juniors, seniors and some sophomores in training, who care for the horses at Fiddler's Green and represent the university at events around the state, including the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and Fiesta San Antonio.

"A gameday is a performance," said senior Heather Striplin, the 1st Platoon leader. "Sometimes it's a high-stress performance, but it usually goes really well." Members of the "Cav" got their horses ready for the ride to Spence Park about seven hours before the game.

They plan to be up before the sun next Saturday for the 11:21 a.m. kickoff against Vanderbilt.

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