The Amazing Power of the Aggie Ring

IMG_8587By Gary Blair

I had the privilege to host the Traveling Aggies small boat to Alaska this August.  We had 25 Aggies on board the 66 passenger ship that sailed the inside passage of Southeast Alaska from Juneau to Sitka.  Before we sailed, the captain introduced his crew to us.  He had two Aggies interns who were deckhands and helped out driving the skiff boats when we went ashore.  Avery ’18 and Roxanne ’16 graduated from Texas A&M Maritime Academy in Galveston.  Avery was proudly wearing his Aggie ring, and one of our travelers asked Roxanne where hers was.  She said she had to go to work straight after graduation and just had not had the time to order one but was very proud of her university.

The next afternoon, at our Aggie reception, we decided to use our Aggie network and to make sure Roxanne got her ring.  We contacted Jennifer Bohac, Director of Travel Programs – Outreach & Engagement, who was also on a trip to Russia.  Jenifer contacted Julie Scamardo, manager of Aggie Ring Program, who helped us with our mission.

All members traveling with our group contributed and we raised $700.00 in about five minutes.  We arranged with the captain and the hosts from Wisconsin, Navy, and Army, who traveled with us, to present the gift to Roxanne at the Captain’s Dinner Thursday night.

When I was given the mic at the dinner, I first brought Vic Reid ’78, a great Aggie, who served in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot.  He told a heartwarming life and death story on what his Aggie ring and his family pictures meant to him after he was shot down in enemy territory.  He then talked about the symbols on the ring and the core values that the ring stands for and how Aggies wear the ring proudly.

I then brought Roxanne up to present her the signed certificate from the Association.  I told her that the Traveling Aggies in Alaska wanted her to have her Aggie ring.  There was many applause, tears shed, and the Aggie War hymn was played. Then we sawed those horns off with Avery and Roxanne leading the way!



DWILL PIC SECThis past weekend I had the privilege of traveling to Birmingham, Alabama for the SEC Leadership Council meetings. One male and one female basketball representative from each school attend these meetings. During these meetings we as student athletes learn more about the rules and regulations that are set forth for teams and universities to abide by. We also have guest speakers that come in and talk to us. For instance, we had a top official come talk to us about  new changes dealing with on the court rules.  We also had a WNBA player operations lady speak to us about going above the standard to be the best on your team and leadership qualities that us as individuals should try to obtain. It was a very neat experience because not only did we get to learn about structures behind our sport but we were also able to connect with the other student athletes from around the conference and listen to their inputs about these topics. I’m blessed to have been able to go to the SEC headquarters and meet the people that work under the SEC because as an individual understanding that basketball will run out soon, these people are good connections that are still in the sport and could potentially be options when I do decide to settle down and get a real job. The next meeting is schedule for July 2018 and hopefully I can attend that one as well.




I watched as every emotion ran down Danielle’s cheek. As the crowd rose to their feet, the redness in her cheeks magnified. Sure she’d heard those sounds of amazement and affection through thunderous applause, as fans marveled at her talents. However, she could always deflect such prays and note those cheers were for her teammates as well. This night as her hand and suit jacket tried to catch each moment that fell from her eye. The spotlight landed where it rightfully belonged.

D, DA, or Dano as my daughter calls before she runs and jumps in her arms, would never write this blog. The words just don’t seem to come when asked to talk about herself. However, if you ask her about Aggieland, her coaches, family, faith, and teammates, she’ll leave the audience in tears as she did last Friday night.

“1st off I’d like to thank the (12th Man) Letterman’s Association. I never thought of this day in my life.”

We in Aggieland were just grateful Danielle chose us as her canvas. So it was definitely not shocking when in her acceptance speech, she thanked the voting panel and all of Aggieland first. Merriam-Webster defines the act of being humble as, “showing a modest estimate of one’s own importance”. While Danielle never thought the day was possible, then Aggie Coach Johnnie Harris knew exactly what the quiet kid entering our locker-room could do. “Just trust me!” Coach Harris’s personality and talents were very similar to Danielle’s, even her Twitter handle starts with Humble Heart. A nod to her demeanor and faith-driven approach. By the time we were recruiting Danielle, and Johnnie said “trust me”, you did just that!  The tears Danielle showed this night, we first saw in her family’s eyes after she played her first NCAA game. We had just beaten Duke at Reed Arena. The Aggie faithful stayed on their feet and were in a frenzy after D splashed her first three-pointer and ended the night with 20+ points. Her Grandmom, Mom, and Aunt were overcome with emotion. They couldn’t believe over 10,000 Aggies were screaming for their baby.

D AND JOHNNIEWell, Aggieland and our coaching staff were sure glad we trusted Coach Harris. As teary-eyed Danielle turned her thanks and attention to Coach Blair and her coaches.

“Coach Blair thank you for a great two years. Thanks for believing in me when no one else would. You gave me an opportunity; I will never regret a day in my life”.

Some wondered how the soft-spoken sweetheart would translate on the court. Coach Blair simply referred to Danielle as his Charles Barkley (Charles ain’t never shot the ball like D). However, as coaches, we could see the similarities. Undersized warriors in height, yet unmovable in heart and girth. Danielle was the ultimate professional! She came to work every day. No matter what was going on outside those 94ft, she was focused! She took coaching and went hard. The sweet stroke was just the beginning, her quick feet allowed her to blow by defenders, her ability to tip the ball to herself made her an imposing rebounder. But her selflessness made her one of the best defenders in the Big 12. Rotating for a charge, steals off the hedge, stripping unsuspecting ball handlers all got her teammates and coaches up off their seats. “It’s not what we do, but how we do it was a rallying cry” for our defense.  Danielle made sure she helped lead the way as we unleashed the GATA on our opponents.

Perhaps my favorite part of the night came as Danielle was overcome with emotion. As she began to thank her family, the tears poured harder. Her Aunt Mary got up in front of over 700 folks and extended a tissue to Danielle. Thus pausing the crying and an eruption of laughs broke across the audience led by Danielle shaking her head and proclaiming “that’s my Aunnnnntie”.  We learned quickly, Danielle had a loving and supporting family. They were there for her! As coaches, we won them over when they saw we truly cared for their baby. They made almost all those long commutes from Kansas City, and when they couldn’t Auntie Mary was on her way from Houston. The Big 12 conference tournament was held in Kansas City Danielle’s first year. I mentioned her family crying tears of joy after her first game in the maroon and white. Well, they brought all of Kansas City to that tournament. They too left emotional. They got to watch Danielle and her fellow Kansas City Aggie teammates Tanisha Smith and Tyra White lead the way as the GATA rolled over Texas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma to bring yet another title to Aggieland.

DA KBClosing out her speech Danielle, saved her faith and teammates for last…

“Thank the Lord for giving me the talent, the love of the game, and the passion I have for it.”

Danielle went on to thank her teammates, reserving “the highest praise for them” as she joked she couldn’t have scored if they didn’t give her the ball. Danielle’s teammates would laugh at that too. Her point guard would laugh especially hard, remembering some of those early morning workouts, with then, strength and conditioning coach, Jen Jones. Colson wasn’t always a member of the DA fan club. You see conditioning was done as team, if Danielle didn’t make her time, well then nobody made their time. The toughness of our championship team was built in the weight room. Colson wasn’t the only one, but let’s just say our players didn’t trust Coach Harris or the rest of staff regarding Danielle early on.  However, that’s where faith intertwines in the story.

Jen Jones, was our spiritual leader and led most of our fellowshipping along with Bill Johnston from FCA. We knew a higher power would have to descend upon that locker room to get this group on the same page, at least in conditioning. Otherwise they wanted Danielle, and her making them run twenty extra lines gone. The team came together, Jen and Bill did an excellent job leading our ministry. But I still believe God’s presence and them trusting Coach Harris, didn’t happen until God laid his hand upon Danielle’s shooting arm and led her to those 20+ points, I mentioned earlier against Duke. Let me tell y’all something, the buy in was immediate! Little Miss Colson volunteered to run extra lines with the sharp shooter. Catherine Snow, did extra treadmill time with Danielle, her roommate Skylar Collins, was throwing the hidden junk food out of their pantries. Everyone was doing their part to help their new teammate. While I exaggerate on some of this (not really), Danielle had found sisters for life. They fell in love with her from all I described, but they truly fell in love with her for her selfless nature. Danielle did all the extra work, because she didn’t want to let her sisters down.

DA SYDIn 2010 we lost to a really good Gonzaga team in the NCAA, led by now Oregon head coach Kelly Graves.  There was emptiness, it wasn’t shock, because we respected our opponent. However, we knew the talent on our roster could match up to anyone else’s in the country. We took to a knee and thanked God for his protection over the course of the year. The look on our players’ faces in the locker room still pain me to this day. There wasn’t a long speech after that game. Danielle and her sisters, took that pain, along with their faith, and brought it back to Aggieland. We all got to witness their manifestation in 2011.  National Champions!

You would think as a coach, 2011 was my proudest moment for Danielle. Well it wasn’t! Danielle went on to make the 2011 WNBA All Star team as a rookie, narrowly losing Rookie of the year out to Maya Moore. She signed a lucrative Nike endorsement and played overseas in the top Euro league. A small promise to Grandmom and Coach Blair, is what I’ll always remember. Danielle turned down a six figure offer from abroad to come back to Aggieland and finish her degree. The promise she made to those two was coming true.

My daughter was born almost nine months after the 2011 celebration had ended. She didn’t get to watch Danielle play as an Aggie. However, she got to witness the giving side we all fell in love with. Danielle studying and explaining her work at the kitchen table. She got to witness her dominate a young group of Ags, that soon learned why the banners hung. She begged to put her feet in the big recovery boots, Danielle put on after every practice. She got to wrestle, read, and ride bikes with Danielle. Lauryn got to meet Danielle as Mrs. Clause at a luncheon and even got to break a birthday piñata, with her hero right by her side! However, my favorite moment, was watching Danielle’s Mom, Tiffany cry as her baby fell into her arms as a graduate of Texas A&M.

DA PINATADanielle’s career has continued to shine wrapping up her 6th straight year as a professional. Despite traveling the globe, Aggieland is always with her. Three words seem small when wrapping up a night like the 40th Annual Burgess Banquet honoring the Texas A&M Hall of Fame Class of 2017. But for an Aggie, her choice of words was perfect…Thanks and Gig’em

Hogs n’ Roses

AW - hogs rosesBy Amy Wright

“Thank you for letting me smell the roses while I am still alive.” These were the words of former Arkansas Razorback running back and now Hall of Honoree, Madre Hill as he received his Hall of Honor induction award Friday night.

Of all words spoken that night, besides mine (wink, wink), rang so true to my competitive spirit as a person and former athlete.

Many people never get a chance to know what they meant to a business they worked for or even a group of people they were surrounded by for certain period of time. “The Nine,” as we, the nine inductees of the 2017 Arkansas Hall of Honor, were referred to all weekend, got a chance to feel the love of a program, a University and a state. And all of us got a chance to share it with our families.

For me, I was never the star of the LadyBack basketball program. I came into a program as a freshman one year after they went to the NCAA final four and was suppose to immediately fill another Hall of Honoree & All American, Christy Smiths’ shoes.

Yeah, that didn’t happen. I faltered at my position as a freshman and we ended up leaning on the true stars that year, Wendi Willits, Karyn Karlin & Sytia Messer. It was KK & Sytia’s last year at Arkansas. Seniors. I can only imagine their frustration with me, a freshman, to run a well established Arkansas team only to the WNIT championship one year after going to the NCAA final four.

At the time, I only felt the pain of losing. Now I understand the distraught of losing something you helped build to the national ranks and helplessly watch it decline.

The following year was preceded with another WNIT bid and Wendi again dominating at her position. Two things happened that summer: I got fed up with not meeting the expectations of my coaches and teammates and we got an Arkansas super star in Shameka Christon.

While Coach Blair would try to put my name into the ballots of All-SEC or a regional All-American, the truth is I wasn’t good enough. I was just a competitor and a really good player. And this little competitor found a way to juice up her teammates, the coaches and Arkansas fans every game for two straight years. This inner motivation to just meet expectations of a program, of coaches, of teammates, lead me to the Hall of Honor. It was never for me, it was for them.

amySo on Friday night, September 8th 2017, the Arkansas athletic department gave me a chance to relive the best four years of my life. Yes, there were ups and downs as an athlete, but I had the opportunity from day one to play! To play the game I love and in front of a crowd that reciprocated my passion and desire to win. I’m glad I realized (eventually) that it was me that was squandering a great opportunity at the University of Arkansas before it was too late.

In a voice quivering speech about my families, coaches, teammates and the Razorbacks, I made it through the night and was humbled with the pats on the back and thank you’s from Dean Weber (Arkansas Razorback Foundation) John McDonnell (Legendary Arkansas Track & Field coach) & fellow inductees Ken Hamlin (Razorback and NFL defense) & Jack O’Keefe (Razorback and PGA golfer). WOW!

The most meaningful words came from Scott Varady, a former Razorback athlete, now part of the foundation department that helped host the weekend event. “Amy, thank you so much for your words. You know, sometimes a program is in a dark place and you start to wonder, but you gave all the Razorbacks in the room life.”  Again, WOW!

So I got to smell the roses! Not only did I smell them this weekend. I picked them. I laid in them and I rolled around in them. Just the way a HOG should!


Coming Home

Ciera - AW title picBy Ciera Johnson

I started my freshman year at The University of Louisville, but things didn’t work out quite the way I wanted, so I made the decision to transfer. During the transfer process, I realized I wanted to come home, back to the State of Texas. So, I chose to continue my education and basketball career at Texas A&M University. I am so excited to be back home in the great State of Texas but also to be a part of a great University like Texas A&M.

There were quite a few factors that drew me to Texas A&M, but I think a major one is the family atmosphere. I know on the court the coaches can be extremely tough but off the court you can tell they genuinely care about us. I have never seen so many alumni come around and stay engaged with the program. The coaches make sure we take care of business and hold us accountable but they also take the time to get to know us as a person. They create relationships with us and gain our trust. For me personally, this is super important. If you show me you care about me, I am going to give my all to you. I can’t forget about my teammates. They made transferring in, so easy. They are so fun to be around but also handle their business.

Another big factor in me choosing to come to Aggieland was the education. I plan on graduating from the Mays School of Business, which is an excellent degree. One thing I think that separates Texas A&M from other Universities is the alumni network. The alumni are invested in the University and helping future Aggies succeed.

One thing that I truly like about Texas A&M is the traditions. I have never seen a school with so many but also dedicated to the traditions. So far, my favorites are the Aggie ring and the Yell Leaders. I think the Aggie ring is a great representation of what you have accomplished, but it’s also an immediate connection to other Aggies around the world. At first, I thought it was a little odd that Texas A&M didn’t have cheerleaders but the Yell Leaders began to grow on me. My first experience with the Yell Leaders was through the first ever Athlete’s Fish Camp. The Yell Leaders led us through some yells which was pretty fun. I think the traditions make the University more unified and create an environment of one big happy family.

I have been on campus for about 3 months now and Aggieland has been very good to me. I think Texas A&M is a good place for me to grow on and off the court. Coming home was one of the best decisions, I think I have ever made. I’M PROUD TO BE AN AGGIE!  Gig’em!!

Our First Fish Camp Experience

By Khaalia Hillsman

With all of the expected and required obligations to our sports, being a student-athlete can sometimes limit our opportunity to partake in certain activities and traditions – one of those traditions being Fish Camp. Usually when Fish Camp is happening we are either bound to school, our sport or we are taking extra time we have to see our family. This year, in large part because of the work of Coach Blair, our athletic department found a way to work around all the athlete’s schedules and gave us the opportunity to experience Fish Camp. And it is definitely something I won’t forget!

What is Fish Camp? Generally Fish Camp welcomes the Freshman class to Texas A&M each year by giving them the opportunity to have fun, make friends, and learn more about Texas A&M. When we get there, they split us into “camp” groups that includes upperclassmen counselors. The goal is that your camp share a special bond as you spend time getting to know one another, attending programs that highlight the opportunities and services available on campus and participating in Aggie Traditions such as Yell Practice, Aggie Muster, and Silver Taps.

When we first arrived, the different sports that were there had their team members split into two groups, green and yellow. I was part of the yellow group and our name changed from “Yellow Group” to “Yellow Squad” in a matter of minutes. Everyday when the groups would be together in the assembly hall, we would go back and forth representing our colors in yell and dance battles. This was one of the funniest (and loudest) parts of Fish Camp that brought us together and made people more comfortable with our new groups.

During our 3 day adventure at Fish Camp, we had the opportunity to really get familiarized with our school’s traditions, stories and basically everything that makes Texas A&M one of the best schools in the nation. As a senior, I was already very familiar with our school’s history and traditions; but the way our camp counselors represented themselves and showed the younger athletes how our school has created and celebrated all of our traditions was amazing to me. The counselors truly bleed Maroon and are so proud to be Aggies. I could literally see their positive energy towards our university trickling down to us as each day passed. It was truly special for me when our team would participate in school traditions such as the Aggie War Hymn, Yells and even learning the Spirit of Aggieland.

AA fish camp2Particularly with the newbies, they were so attentive and engaged with learning about each of the traditions. I think when the focus was on our more sacred traditions like Bonfire, Aggie Muster and Silver Taps, it really hit home for them. I didn’t see a dry eye in the room when those traditions were honored and I feel like that represented a transition from the perspective of just old traditions to holding a special place in their hearts and a new respect for our dedication to honoring the lives of our fallen Aggies. They hadn’t had a chance to be able to experience first-hand what we do here yet since they’ve only been here during the summer so I think being able to come to Fish Camp got them acquainted to our history and all the fun things we do here will be beneficial to them in the school environment.

For me, my favorite Aggie tradition is the Aggie Ring. As a student athlete at a premier university that A&M is, it is so hard to juggle sports and academics. Sometimes I get overwhelmed with the degree of commitment it takes to excel in the classroom because I’m already heavily committed to my sport and I feel like one can’t excel without me holding back from the other. But the Aggie Ring is a physical representation of all the hard work, struggles and dedication that I’ve been able to balance along with being on an elite team. Yes, we get a degree which is also a physical representation of being able to complete college, but the Aggie ring isn’t just a symbol in regards to education, but it represents the unity of our family as well. Anyone who sees someone wearing that beautiful golden ring around their right ring finger, or on a chain around their neck, or anywhere else, knows they have come from a place of respect, selfless-service, integrity, loyalty, leadership and excellence. A place where our core values aren’t just implemented, but carried through during and long after you’re at Texas A&M.

Throughout our days at Fish Camp, it made me so grateful to be with such a great group of athletes. When we would participate we would do so with pride and joy for our university. We all sang, whooped and laughed together and were exposed to all the things that make Texas A&M so special. I could tell that everyone on our team was exposed to something new and loved learning about the traditions through the skits our counselors organized and performed. Even though we were divided into two groups (green and yellow), we still had the opportunity to come together, meet new people and just have fun as an Aggie Family.

AA fish camp1

An Assist: The Aggie Way

Aggie Assist HeaderBy The Aggie Coaching Staff

There is a quote by Mario Puzo:

“The strength of a family, like the strength of an army, is in its loyalty to each other.”

That loyalty is never more tested than in times of adversity.  The true family stands with each other during moments of difficulty.  And while we certainly pray that our family members are void of pain we know that suffering will come — and we know we will be there to lend a hand when it does — that is what defines family.

This week, one of our very own, Tori Scott Raven (’15) has lost her mother.  Her mother was the kind in which coaches dream of — always supporting our staff in our basketball decisions and being in the forefront when it came to Tori’s academics.  She stressed constantly that nothing was more important to Tori’s tenure as an Aggie than a quality education and a degree.  And with her mom’s motivational force, she achieved both.

The amazing story behind Tori and her mother is that their journey has never been easy.  The New Orleans family was decimated by Hurricane Katrina and was displaced often.  Still, with her mother’s support Tori is an Aggie graduate, married and mother of young baby boy.

As often happens, the children become the caretakers of parents and Tori is now faced with the dilemma of financing her mother’s funeral.  It’s a daunting task as you can imagine and must be done while grieving.

Through the efforts of our athletic department and compliance office, we have been able to create a method in which we can assist Tori — The Aggie Way.

There are two ways to help:

  1. Mail a check with a note that funds are to assist Tori Scott to the:

12th Man Foundation,

P.O. Box 2800

College Station, TX 77841-2800

  1. Or you can make a credit card payment by calling the 12th Man Foundation at 979-846-8892 and explain that you want to make a contribution to Tori Scott’s mother’s expenses.

We have an Aggie in need — please consider making a donation regardless of size.  After all, it’s The Aggie Way!