Sunday, October 2, 2011

Aggie Pride

What's up everyone. So, this weekend we had another heartbreaking loss in football. On Friday night we had the in-state rival game against BYU down in Provo. At first, the game was going awesome. We had an 80-yard touchdown run on the FIRST play of the game (which got our own Robert Turbin on ESPN's Top-10 that night)! As the game went on, we were always in the lead. Our crowd was going nuts and showing the Cougars what a REAL crowd looks like (in their own stadium, no less). All-in-all, it was looking like a solid victory for the Aggies. But, like it has happened twice before this season, once against Auburn and again versus Colorado State... we lost in the final seconds of the game. BYU had two lucky plays that put them ahead 27-24 with 0:11 left on the clock. We lost. I was devastated. Instead of resulting to my usual screaming and yelling at the top of my lungs in frustration, I just sunk. I sat on my bench, staring at the ground, for a good 10 minutes. I didn't move or talk to anyone as the stadium cleared out. My heart was completely ripped in half, for the third time this season. But, as my friend Jake and I walked to our car and began to drive home, I couldn't help but feel as if we had still won. I don't say this in the sense of someone with denial. But, I realized that what Utah State has over other schools allows us to win, no matter what. And what that is, is Aggie Pride. Now, yes, I know students at other schools in Utah and around the country all have immense pride for their schools. Of course. But, Utah State has something different. To best illustrate my point, read this next article. Written by my good friend Matt Sonnenburg, a recent graduate and hardcore Aggie fan who is a True-Blooded Aggie to his core. What he wrote couldn't have been written any better.

1. Nobody said it would be easy

All of us who truly live and die by our Aggies know exactly what each other are feeling right now. The wonderings of "what if" and "so close" are inescapable. We know what it feels like to beat BYU after 2010, but to do it a second time and in their house would have been something truly incredible. Now at 1-3, we've had our hearts ripped out three times this season, in something that seems to be nothing but consistent with the past of Aggie football that we've come to know.

But this feels different. This year isn't like others. This time around, we all seem to know that we've got what it takes to make it back to a bowl game. Not only that, but for one's heart to be ripped out, one's heart has to have attached emotion to something. We've obviously attached ourselves to this team because we believe in it. Not only do we believe in it, but we love it. We seem to love their mentality, their excitement and maybe most of all, them.

Robert Turbin's name has already been nearly a thing of legend at USU the past few years. Bobby Wagner could just as easily have a four-letter word with an "ing" at the end for his middle name. Same for Kyle Gallagher. Kerwynn Williams is lightning in a bottle, and we know that anytime the ball makes it into his hands, something big could happen. And Chuckie Keeton, well... Who didn't fall in love with him from day one? There are things to love about every player on this team, and it seems like everybody can see it.

Call it love, call it dedication, or call it insanity... To me, all three can be summed up into two simple words: Aggie pride.

2. How this brings all of us together.

Utah State is different from the other schools in Utah. At USU, people come from all over to put their previous lives behind them and start anew in a small college town that, upon first glance, doesn't seem to have much to do. So we lean on each other. We make new friends and we find new things we enjoy. People with varying interests who might have otherwise never even associated with one another somehow become inseparable in Logan. Things you never thought you would even care about become things you love, and maybe most of all, Logan, along with all its culture and mentality, becomes a part of you.

We come to Utah State and in turn, we all come together. And even when we're gone, or when we leave town just temporarily, it's like a part of us is still left behind. But when we're all together, in a town and at a school that brought people together in ways you haven't seen before in your life, we have our Aggies. They are ours, and few people can say that. We know that we're third fiddle in this state and that we have to fight that much harder for every win and every ounce of respect, and that fight brings us even closer than anything else.

3. The lowest of lows

We know heartbreak. We know heartbreak way too well. We've felt it time and time again over the years and already this season. We felt the excitement of being the biggest story in the country against Auburn, only to have things ripped away from us at the end. We saw the meltdown versus Colorado State and were left only to wonder why and how that could have happened. Then, tonight we saw what once looked to be nearly a sure win against BYU slip away by the hand of a pair of miracle plays on their part.

But it goes beyond that. We've seen it in basketball too. When we joined the WAC for the 2005-06 school year, we took a top 25 Nevada team to overtime on their home court in the WAC championship game, only to let that win slip away at the end. The next year, we beat No. 10 ranked Nevada in the semifinals, only to miss a potential game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer to lose the championship yet again. Then, the following year, after winning our first regular season WAC championship, we got beat in the semifinals, failing to even reach the championship game for the first time.

There have been a lot of rough finishes, long and miserable drives home and what has seemed like some horrible strings of bad luck.

4. The highest of highs

Because of that bad luck, and because of us knowing how bad it sucks to lose, that is what makes winning so special. That trial we went through is what gives us the sense of feeling that we've finally done it, and seeing the players, coaches and often times close friends of ours succeed on the field or the court is what makes something so gratifying.

In 2009, when USU fans took over Reno for the WAC Tournament, just about anyone there will tell you that was one of the best three-day stretches of their life, because for that weekend, things finally went our way. Even when we seemed on the verge of heartbreak yet again, Tyler Newbold played the role of Superman, giving us one of the most exciting moments I've ever witnessed to put us into the championship game where we went on to dominate Nevada on their home court. We had finally done it, and storming that court to celebrate with our team and all our friends is an experience that words can't describe. The only thing that can truly convey how good it felt was to have been there, bleeding Aggie blue, and having agonized and dealt with tough losses before it.

Then, in 2010, despite injuries to seemingly everybody on the football team, we tasted greatness yet again. Just one year ago, we got to experience what generations of USU students never gotten to experience. We had the entire country watching us celebrate that moment. We had the rest of the State of Utah backing us. And most of all, we had each other, knowing full-well what we'd been through in the past, now with agony turning to bliss when those final seconds ticked away and 31-16 became a number of infamy.

Would that have all had the same thrill were it not for the heartbreak and agony followed us down the road to get there? Of course not. That is why nights like tonight are important to remember, if for nothing else as the night that Utah State-BYU officially became a rivalry, no matter what anybody else says. They tried calling 2010 a fluke, but Aggie fans all knew better, and when they stormed their field for a win over us, at that point it was officially on. They fear us, as they damn well should.

5. How far we've come

The Utah State student section at the game in Provo tells it all. The excitement of Eric Moats' and Robert Turbin's touchdowns, and every clutch third-down conversion we made demonstrate the passion we have based on the yelling and jumping around that we were doing. On the flip side, the collective sadness and heartbreak we all felt at the end is also what tells the story. You could look to the person next to you and know that their pain was the same thing you were feeling. That unity is what defines Aggie Pride.

Whether you were a freshman in 2006 like me when we won just one game only to suffer through several more terrible years, or are brand new this year to Utah State, you've already felt the heartbreak that generations of USU fans know all too well. But that heartbreak is what makes things like a WAC Tournament championship or a win at home over BYU so special. Those lows and highs bring us all together in the same way, it's just the emotions that vary. The more bad that comes though, the more the good will be amplified. That is why it is important to remember this night and how you felt.

But things are on the rise. Anybody familiar with the program can see it. We've got superstars on this team who are going to carry us to new heights. The days of us routinely getting blown out wherever we play are gone. That 2006 season, we lost to BYU and Utah by a combined score of 86-0 in back-to-back games. Now BYU needs a miracle to beat us at home.

6. Love

It is so weird to be feeling this strongly about a team that just ripped my heart out for a third time in four games, but I have never loved my Utah State Aggies more. Football, basketball or hockey. I believe in this team so much, and I believe in this program and the direction it is going. I believe that decades of despair are ending right before our eyes and we're at one of the final trial before we ascend to a new level of football unseen by generations before us. We're where dedication is being challenged the most, and on the other side is the greatness that we've all battled through tough times to realize. Maybe it's that I believe that this is the group that will take us over that hump, but regardless of what it is, I love this football team.

We're not there yet, but neither is the end of the season, and with each loss comes a new lesson. With each loss, the thrill of victory will be that much sweeter. No matter what, do not give up now. Not when we're this close. Not when we're just a mistake or two per game away from greatness.

Stick with this team. Be a part of when things all went right for us finally. And when they do, all of these tough times will make it worth the ride.

Go Aggies.

So, really, at the end of the day, I'm proud to be an Aggie. In every sense of the word. Not just athletics, but in everything. Being an Aggie means more to me than just waking up and going to school, or putting on a USU shirt. It means being devoted and enveloped so much in my school, that I'm there for the highest of highs and the lowest of lows (even if it means I've shed a tear or two from a loss).

To anyone who is considering attending Utah State, I encourage you to ask yourself, are you the kind of person who wants to just simply attend college? Or are you someone who wants to get so enveloped in your school, that it becomes your life. Where you will stand with your school come hell or high water. If you choose the latter, a True-Blooded Aggie is what you should be.

Hail the Utah Aggies!

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