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Hewett’s play inspires plan for ‘12th man’

Hewett’s play inspires plan for ‘12th man’

Posted: Thursday, September 22, 2011 12:55 pm

Jason Simpson, the sixth-year head football coach at The University of Tennessee at Martin didn’t have to look far for his 12th man when he found fifth-year senior Matt Hewett.
Hewett was serving as a student assistant when the Skyhawk head coach convinced him to play. This past Thursday, Hewett proved he could still play, despite not playing since a season-ending knee injury during 2006, his senior year in high school. Hewett had seven carries for 47 yards and a touchdown.
Now Simpson is looking for his next 12th man.
“I want the best player from every fraternity on campus,” Simpson said during Thursday night’s postgame interview. “I want the best ATO, the best KA, the best from every group. They will play and we will start the 12th man.”
The 12th man is a term used to denote the attempt of a team’s fans to help their team. The 12th man was started by Texas A&M in 1922 in the Cotton Bowl Classic.
Texas A&M had so many injuries in the first half of the game, that Coach D.X. Bible called into the Aggie student section for E. King Gill, a student who had left the football team after the regular season to play basketball. Gill was not in a football uniform, so he had to wear the uniform of an injured player. He did not play in the game, but his readiness to play symbolized the willingness of all Aggies to support their team
In the 1980s, the tradition was expanded as coach Jackie Sherrill created the 12th Man squad. Composed solely of walk-on (non-scholarship) players, the squad would take the field for special teams.
Sherrill’s successor, R. C. Slocum, amended the tradition in the 1990s to allow one walk-on player, wearing the No. 12 jersey, to take the field for special teams.
The player is chosen based on the level of determination and hard work shown in practices.
Published in The WCP 9.22.11

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