The newly elected yell leaders for Texas A&M University come with different backgrounds – certainly including Roy May, whose 12-year army career took him to Iraq and included service as a sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and rescue and recovery efforts at the Pentagon following the 9/11 terrorist attack – but they all had becoming an Aggie as their goal.
The other four Aggies who won yell leader honors in campus-wide elections for 2013-14 are Chris Powell, a junior sociology major from West Point, N.Y.; Ryan Crawford, a junior political science major from Austin; Hunter Cook, a junior construction science major from Lufkin; and Patrick McGinty, a sophomore pre-med kinesiology major from San Antonio.
Yell leaders are elected by the student body and serve in a variety of high-profile capacities, most visibly at football games and other athletic events as they lead Aggies and Aggie fans in “yells” in support of their teams. All of the yell leaders this year are members of the Corps of Cadets, which is often — but not always — the case. All are 21 years old, except for May, who is 33.
May, who was born in College Station, is a sophomore member of the corps’ veteran’s unit, Delta Company and is an industrial distribution major. His journey started 12 years ago when he joined the Army and that took him to Washington, where he served as a sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, aided in rescue and recovery in the Pentagon following the attacks of 9/11 and included the honor of standing at the head of the late President Reagan’s casket as he lay in state in the Capitol.
May also served with the 82nd Airborne Division as a squad leader in the 1st of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, where he also deployed as a combat squad leader to Iraq in 2009.
He says Texas A&M has always been a part of his life because his father was Class of ’66 and his sister was Class of ’95. “I have been bleeding maroon since the day I was born, but I certainly took an alternate route to get here,” May says.
After his deployment to Iraq, he came to a crossroads. “Though I loved my experiences in the Army, as an Aggie at heart, I made the decision to forego staying in active service so I could come and earn my degree at Texas A&M. Every day I walk on campus I realize how blessed I am to be an Aggie and a junior yell leader,” he notes.
May is married and has a seven-year-old daughter. He is believed to be the first married yell leader since shortly after the end of World War II.
Powell knew he would have a little culture shock coming to Texas from West Point, even when his father, a member of the Aggie Class of 1984, ensured that Powell and his sisters had a full dose of the Aggie Spirit growing up.
“Nothing prepared me for the sights and sounds of the Texas A&M campus! Whether it was a friendly ‘Howdy’ or a smiling face offering directions to my disoriented family, I soon became enamored by the Aggie Family and their kindness,” he said.
Powell applied to Virginia Tech and the United States Military Academy, “but the best decision of my life was making the choice to attend A&M,” he adds. “I am a proud member of the Corps of Cadets Company D-2, but more importantly a proud member of the Class of 2014.
“My buddies in the Corps jokingly called me a Yankee my freshmen year because I had traveled so far away from New York to attend school, but it did not take long for this unique institution to feel like home.”
Crawford is a member of the Corps of Cadets, Company E-2. He says growing up right down the street from the University of Texas influenced him to come to Texas A&M.
“I just had to get out of there. When I got to Texas A&M I was a first-generation Aggie, however after two-and-a-half years here I feel like I have been a part of this family forever,” he says. “Other schools simply do not have the same homey feel that I have experienced at A&M.”
Crawford says he joined the Corps and was blessed with the responsibility of caring for Reveille VIII, the university collie mascot. “During my tenure as Rev’s handler I was able to serve Texas A&M by making sure our ‘first lady’ was always able to represent the university as best she could.”
He says he and his friend Hunter Cook both were elected as junior yell leaders, the capacity in which they currently serve. Crawford says serving as yell leader during Texas A&M’s first year in the SEC has been an “incredible experience.”
Cook agrees, saying “Getting to be a part of our unforgettable inaugural season in the SEC, watching Johnny Manziel bring home the second Heisman trophy to Texas A&M and seeing the growth of the Aggie family has been a humbling experience.”
Cook is a member of the Corps of Cadets, Company D-1. His journey to Aggieland began with a tragedy.
“As a junior in high school I came home to hear my cousin had passed away in a helicopter accident here on campus. Over the next week I got to see something I had never seen before, the Aggie Family. During this tough time they cared for me and offered assistance in anything I could possibly need. Through this great loss I gained so much and I knew Texas A&M was the only place for me.”
Once an Aggie, Cook says he began to look for ways to give back to the Aggie Family for all it had given him. As a yell leader, he believes he finally found a way. “So much has happened during my tenure that has been an unforgettable experience. To get to spend another season on Kyle and represent the student body is an honor.”
Growing up in a Longhorn family, McGinty, a member of Company K-1, said his parents would talk of no other school than the University of Texas and he says attending Texas A&M was more of a back-up plan for him.
“It wasn’t until I experienced my first ‘Howdy!’ from a stranger, been welcomed into the Aggie Family at Fish Camp, stood with the 12th Man at my first football game and honored the fallen at Silver Taps, that I realized there isn’t a better university in the world. Texas A&M has given me so much over the past year and a half, but the thing that sticks out the most is the way that the Aggie Family can rally together in good times and bad,” he adds.
When a friend and fellow Aggie passed away, McGinty says there were Aggies who immediately dropped everything, from work to vacation, to go back to his hometown and be with his family. “I remember being at his funeral and seeing thousands of Aggies celebrating his life, and it dawned on me that that was what the Aggie Spirit was all about. At Silver Taps countless Aggies gathered silently to celebrate his life, some knew him but most didn’t, and the way everyone stood in silence honoring his life left me speechless,” he recalls.
Whatever obstacles they had to overcome on this journey to Aggieland, and no matter how long it took to get here, all five yell leaders agree that they are lucky to be attending what they consider to be the “greatest university in the world.” They say it is an honor and privilege to serve as yell leader.