Welcome to College Station, home of Texas A&M University...and not much else.
However, that's what makes the central-Texas city one of the top game-day spots in the country. The state's rich football culture integrated with the locale, people and atmosphere creates an environment unlike any from the Deep South to the West Coast, a fact many Aggies take pride in every game day.
Home of one of Texas' most welcoming and hospitable communities, as one Florida Gator fan learned on opening day last season, College Station life centers around its tier-one university, making Texas A&M's Kyle Field the hub of all traffic, entertainment and culture every fall Saturday.
This guide will break down how, when and where to do most everything in College Station from the moment you enter the city limits to the second your car pulls away.
Where to Tailgate
Whether it's before or after the game (or during, in some cases), tailgating remains the lifeblood of any true college football fan's game experience.
In College Station, the university provides a multitude of options for fans in terms of where to tailgate, ranging from just outside the student section (the east side) to the outskirts of Reed Arena (A&M's basketball stadium).
The tailgating areas occupy most any spot of grass on campus near Kyle Field, as Aggies welcome strangers to grab some food, have a drink, or toss around a football before or after the game.
A majority of tailgates are unassigned, with students lining up Friday afternoon to claim their spots outside Kyle Field for their pregame tailgates. From that point on, students, alumni, campus staff and visiting fans "prep" for the game, just in a slightly different way than either of the football teams competing on Saturday.
What to Drink
If it's early fall, as it is right now, I honestly recommend water (boring, but safe at this point). College Station is known for combining the state's southwestern dry heat with East Texas humidity, creating a deadly amalgamation bent on causing heat stroke for fans around the stadium.
Thus my suggestion for the exclusive intake of water pregame. Staying hydrated throughout the matchup will prove important as well, as the heat will hit hardest midway through the Alabama game, at around 4 p.m. CT.
Postgame...well, that's up to you.
What to Eat
Texas is famous for a lot of things, but from a cuisine standpoint, barbecue tops the list. The smell alone is enough to salivate profusely.
However, it's the rich taste, combined with many homemade sauces, that will have you coming back for more. And more. And then again some more.
Many masters of the grill bring their own contraptions attached to their vehicles, with the intention of feeding parties of people both before and after the game. Personally, a tailgate I must drop by every game day is a friend who's grilled venison sausage stands apart as the perfect combination of spice and flavor.
In my three seasons on campus, I've seen everything from rib-eye steaks to hamburgers at tailgates, each with its own special twist meant to attract even the most sensitive pallets.
How to Be the 12th Man
Simplifying the 12th Man in terms of football into words will be no easy task, but without a doubt the plainest explanation is this: The entirety of the student body standing on the east side of Kyle Field creates an atmosphere more deafening than anything one may ever encounter.
I've yelled with the 12th Man, given pass-back symbols and synchronized with over 30,000 students to 13 completely separate rhythms, chosen by five "Yell Leaders," each of which number every student knows by heart. I've screamed myself hoarse on multiple occasions. Specifically, I remember having difficultly hearing following a game due to the deafening noise the 12th Man produces.
I remember 4th-and-goal against Louisiana Tech, as a Von Miller-led defense shut down the Bulldogs on their final attempt to tie the game. I recall every roar from the 12th Man as Nebraska's Taylor Martinez took a sack. I recollect Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones' body language after allowing a safety, watching him sulk towards the Sooner sideline displaying an "it's going to be a long day" attitude.
As a media member, I've stood on the sidelines during games, listening to the 12th Man as it's heard by both visiting and home players alike. The noise is amplified 10-fold on the field, as thousands of students attempt to alter the game through the power of voice.
It's awe-inspiring, to be honest.
Nowhere in the country can a student body hold as powerful an influence as at Texas A&M, where the 12th Man isn't just at the game—it affects the game.
Where to Go After the Game
One answer: Northgate. Every college town has bar district, and Texas A&M's is Northgate, lying (appropriately) just north of campus.
Within, one can find any type of bar, from Irish to honky tonk and everything in between.
For Aggies, Northgate has supplied the energy either to sulk following losses or to celebrate following victories for decades, and with dance halls and clubs, expect some fun outside of regular bars to be available.
*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand
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