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After a grueling first half against Auburn in 2021, the halftime whistle ushered the Aggies into the locker room and set an intricate plan in motion. Within minutes, the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band launched into “The Aggie War Hymn” as more than 2,300 members of the Texas A&M University Corps of Cadets shuffled onto the field to get in position on the visiting sideline and behind the north endzone. Their task was deceptively simple: On cue, find your place and stand still. But the effort and coordination behind forming the iconic Block T on Kyle Field speaks to the unity and determination that has defined the Corps since its inception. 

Until 1915, the Texas A&M football team and their rivals, The University of Texas, had faced off in Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio—but never College Station. The atmosphere on campus before their first meeting at Kyle Field was electric. According to The Battalion, Head Yell Leader Wrathall “Runt” Hansen ’16 led a “pep rally” the evening before the game where cadets rehearsed “snake dance maneuvers,” forming “four abreast in three columns and then, after giving several yells, shifting formation to that of a gigantic ‘T.’”  

On that fateful day, cadets performed the T at halftime as practiced, and the Aggies prevailed in a 13-0 upset. Two years later, current and former cadets famously branded the score into the Longhorn mascot’s hide, purportedly inspiring its name, Bevo. The University of Texas officially disputes this claim. 

In the 1922 Block T, cadets raised colored handkerchiefs to split the letter into alternating maroon and white halves.

In the following years, cadets continued forming the Block T with slight changes in method and presentation. The 1922 yearbook describes students marching to “Pop Goes the Weasel” before forming the T and raising colored handkerchiefs to split the letter into alternating maroon and white halves. However, due to postwar circumstances and a lack of coordination, the Corps performed the Block T more sporadically. 

By the time the late William Dorsey ’57 was appointed Head Yell Leader in 1956, the tradition had been on hiatus throughout his time in College Station. Dorsey, sentimental to Old Army ways, was determined to resurrect it, eventually approaching band director Col. E.V. Adams ’29 for permission. Adams agreed on the condition that band members cut their performance short to make time for the formation. “He also told me the big, basic requirement was permission from ‘the Bear,’ Coach Paul Bryant,” Dorsey later wrote, “and I could tell he thought that might be ‘tough’ (meaning impossible).” 

The band voted yes. Bryant voted no. The day after Dorsey learned of the coach’s rejection secondhand, he talked past several athletic staff to convince Bryant in person, rattling off his fervent pitch in Bryant’s office. Finally, the legendary coach looked up and said, “Hell, son, if it means that much to you, go ahead.”

With the Bear’s approval, Dorsey called upon his connections with Corps leadership, and the formation went off without a hitch on Nov. 17, 1956. “The spirit of Texas A&M’s Corps of Cadets was demonstrated that day and showed clearly what our school is all about and why,” Dorsey said.  

(Top Left): 1956 Block T; (Top Right): 1945 Block T; (Bottom Left): 2019 Block T; (Bottom Right): 1948 Block T. Black and white photos provided by Cushing Memorial Library and Archives. 2019 photo provided by Texas A&M Corps of Cadets.

Despite Dorsey’s successful effort, another substantially longer hiatus befell the all-Corps Block T. The tradition lay dormant, at least during football games, for 55 years before its revival at the Military Appreciation Game against Kansas on Nov. 19, 2011. The Corps has since formed the Block T during a home game every year except 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The Corps of Cadets formed the famous T during the 1974 Military Day Review ceremonies on Simpson Drill Field, marking its first appearance since 1956. Photo taken and provided by Jerry Cooper '63.

Planning typically begins at the onset of the fall semester and involves securing tickets for every cadet, mapping out field entry points and careful practice. Dr. Russell Tipton, senior associate director of bands, described the effort it takes just to chart out where everyone will stand. “With the band, we chart for 350 to 400 cadets,” he stated. “Charting for the entire Corps, even just the one formation, requires counting 2,000 to 2,500 positions.” When each cadet is assigned their spot, the entire Corps rehearses once at the John D. White ’70 – Robert L. Walker ’58 Music Activities Center and again on Kyle Field a week before the chosen game.  

All the planning pays off in an inspiring sight: a small army of cadets from all walks of life gathering themselves with precision to literally become something greater than themselves. Once in formation, the cadets “hump it” before scattering across the field and back up the stands to rejoin the 12th Man. When the football team returns moments later, the cadets are exactly where they should be—standing together.

  • Dunae Reader '15

  • Assistant Director of Marketing & Communications/Spirit Editor/Maroon Co-Editor
  • Call: 979.321.6343

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