The Texas A&M junior offensive linemen made a fashion statement when he walked into Day One of college football’s signature media event not with typical dress shoes on, but instead with attire closely tied the Lone Star State.
“I’m wearing cowboy boots today, “ Joeckel said as he picked his foot up and hoisted it above the table for all to see. “These are the only formal brown shoes I have, and I thought they were nice.”
Here we are SEC, A&M said, and we’ve got our boots on.
Joeckel’s boots were the most glaring example, but for the entire day players and coaches from both Texas A&M and Missouri made sure to be themselves. The two schools may be joining what is considered the best conference in college football, but they’re not conforming or changing just for the sake of fitting in.
Only a few weeks away from beginning the daunting task of entering the SEC, where the winners of the past six national titles reside, the new teams on the block have an air of confidence about them, but still seem to be trying to find their way fitting in.
“It’s everything that everybody said it would be, the passion of the fans and the notoriety,” Texas A&M Coach Kevin Sumlin said. “I know I’m excited and our players are excited to get this thing going.”
Sumlin also recognized the benefit he may have going into this season being a new coach.
“It actually may be an advantage for me because I wasn’t the coach last year,” Sumlin said. “For us, hitting the ground running, we’ve always approached this as an SEC job and all this coaching staff has ever done is watch SEC football. We don’t have anything to compare that to.”
Missouri defensive back E.J. Gaines noted how his team’s transition into the SEC will be this season.
“Were known for winning, and the SEC is known for winning,” he said. “But our style of play is completely opposite – it’s just the way we do it.”
The players and coaches from both teams recognized the size and speed differences they will face SEC, but also explained that it doesn’t matter to them.
“Were just as tough as any SEC school… we’re just in a different conference,” Gaines said. “Knowing my team and knowing what we can do – we definitely fit in with the SEC.”
On Sep. 8, the Aggies make their SEC debut against Florida, while the Tigers are set to host Georgia.
Gaines said he’s confident the Bulldogs will be welcomed with a live atmosphere.
“I think its gonna be crazy. The Missou fanbase in Columbia is crazy,” he said.
Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel shows his boots at SEC Media Days. (Dean Legge/Dawg Post).