Before any college in Texas had cheerleaders, A&M had yell leaders.
Aggie yell leaders' history goes back to at least 1906 – but it's seen some changes over more than a century.
The earliest yell leaders didn't wear white, and even the style of leading yells has changed over the years.
Ten former yell leaders met up at The Association of Former Students recently to provide an illustration -- watch the difference in yell leading styles from the Class of 1948 to the Class of 2015:
The movements grew more exaggerated over the decades, as you can see: From left to right in the video are Bill Lonquist '48, Joe West '54, Ted Lowe '58, Richard Biondi '60, Mike Beggs '68, Bob Segner '69, Frank Shannon '77, Dan Quinn '81, Marty Holmes '87 and Roy May '15.
Segner said that when he's asked to lead yells alongside current yell leaders, "I always preface, when I'm rolling up my sleeves and we're getting ready to go, I say, 'Don't think that I've gotten old and senile and forgotten how to do the yells. They have evolved over the years, so I'm going to look different than they look!'"
1919 Texas A&M yearbook
Biondi speculated that the extended movements came about as Kyle Field got taller and the yell leaders needed their signals to be visible from farther away and on increasingly congested sidelines. Kyle's second decks were added in 1967, and the third decks were completed in 1980.
Beggs said, "Today's yell leaders are downright athletic compared to what we did. In 'Gig 'Em,' where they turn and come up out of their stance and they turn around completely … There's a lot of stuff like that, that we didn't do."
West added, "I think each group kind of wanted to be unique – add a little flavor of their own."
The first "chief" yell leader was chosen in 1907, and yell practices were a regular occurrence on campus as early as 1913, held for decades in the afternoons and evenings.
Early yell leaders wore haphazard, mismatched clothes for their entertainment value, to fire up the cadets and fans. The white uniforms came into use by 1915 -- though there's no evidence for the old story that freshmen raided a janitor's closet for white coveralls.
Midnight Yell Practice has usually been casual, ever since its informal beginnings in 1931 on the steps of the Y.
Cushing Memorial Library
Yell Practice at the YMCA building circa 1940
Lonquist and Biondi recalled yell leaders wearing regular Corps uniforms for the event in the '40s and '50s, when it was held at the Y (the campus YMCA) and later the Grove (the outdoor theater that stood from 1949 to 2003).
In the late 1960s, Midnight Yell saw a slight revival of the old "mismatched" idea:
Beggs: "Basically what we yell leaders wore for Midnight Yell Practice was pieces of uniforms."
Segner: "Whatever we could scare up… I wore surfing jams (shorts)."
Beggs: "I wore pajamas once."
The embroidered overalls now seen at midnight in Kyle Field got their start in 1974 with two junior yell leaders.
At that time, typical yell leader attire for Midnight Yell included plain overalls and jeans with class shirts. Chuck Hinton '76 came to one yell practice in overalls and a white shirt that had "Next year's here" embroidered on it.
Hinton recalled, "Everyone on campus in the fall of '75 thought we would have a pretty good team, and the enthusiasm for 'Next Year's Here' was high. I sold bumper stickers that were maroon and white with an ATM logo stating 'Next Year's Here' as a fundraiser to defray our travel costs to away games."
Then, Jim Bob Mickler '76 wore overalls with a large ATM logo on the back, embroidered by his girlfriend, Pat Harris (now his wife).
Hinton painted his own overalls, and the idea caught on immediately. Shannon said, "We all wore overalls to yell practice" in 1976.
Sue Owen '94
Today's yell leaders are in constant demand year-round, inspiring Aggie spirit not only at sports events and Midnight Yell Practices both home and away, but at A&M Clubs and Aggie Moms' events around the state, Fish Camp and other orientation programs, Coach's Night fundraisers and more.
They are truly, as the title of Rusty Burson's 2013 book about them puts it, "Ambassadors of the Aggie Spirit."