By Shelbi LeMeilleur
I’ve got a little story for ya, Ags!
Anyone familiar with the Texas A&M University tradition of Midnight Yell knows that when a yell leader says they’ve got a story, what follows is always memorable. Most of the time, it’s an anecdote related to the upcoming football game or a joke at the opposing team’s expense. Tom Miller, Class of ‘59, has a little story for us too.
“Killer Miller,” as his classmates call him, was a yell leader during the 1957-58 school year. His love for Texas A&M and Aggie football reaches back to his childhood. “I started listening on the radio to Aggie football games when I was 9 years old,” he says. In 1955, he and 12 others from his graduating class in Alvin all came to Texas A&M. Two short years later, not only would he be a yell leader, but he would get to experience one of his first loves up close and personal.
1957 was a memorable year for Aggie football. It was Coach Bear Bryant’s last year as the head coach at Texas A&M before he went to the University of Alabama. Lucky for Miller, the yell leader received a special job from the legendary coach before Bryant’s days at Texas A&M were over.
On Sept. 28, 1957, Miller was standing outside the Texas A&M locker room in Lubbock, waiting for the game against Texas Tech to begin. One of Tech’s pregame traditions is to have their mascot, the Red Raider, ride around the stadium on a black stallion. After that, the teams take the field.
“It was my job to lead the team out on the field there,” says Miller. “Coach Bear Bryant himself came out [of the locker room] and saw me standing there. He recognized I was a yell leader and said, ‘Son, have they run that horse around yet?’”
Miller informed Coach Bryant that the horse had not yet run around, so Bryant said, “Come tell me when they have.” As soon as the horse finished his lap, Miller knocked on the door of the dressing room to tell Coach Bryant it was time.
“A guy answered and I told him, ‘Coach told me to let him know when they ran the horse around the track,’” says Miller. The guy at the door told Miller he would let Coach Bryant know, and tried to turn Miller away. Miller wasn’t taking no for an answer.
“‘No, he told me to tell him,’” Miller recalls telling the fellow at the door, who finally relented. “So they let me in.”
Bear Bryant saw both Miller and the other guy, who Miller recalls rushed to get the message to Bryant first that the horse had run around the track. “But Bear Bryant told me to tell him, so I repeated it again. The coach said, ‘Well fine, let’s go play some football.’ And there we went. I think we won that game.”
Win the game, they did. The Aggies beat Tech that year 21-0 as part of their 8-3 overall record. This wasn’t the only memorable win for Miller in 1957. His classmate John David Crow won the Heisman, and Miller speaks very fondly of another football great.
Miller was a yell leader for only one year. He graduated in the summer of 1959 with a degree in chemical engineering as the first person in his family to graduate from college. Miller graduated with a regular Army commission and was assigned to training school at Fort Sill in Oklahoma.
It was during his time stationed in Ansbach, Germany (just outside of Nuremburg), where he met the love of his life, Peggy Quinn, who was overseas teaching at the Army school. They were friends for several years before dating, and eventually married. They have two sons and five grandchildren. Like any loving father and grandfather, Miller loves bragging about his family. Both of his sons attended Texas A&M, as did one of his granddaughters.
During his time in the Army, Miller moved his family 10 times. When he retired in 1980, the Millers lived in Franklin until 2005, when he settled down back in College Station where he has stayed since. His love for Texas A&M and Aggie sports has not wavered and he loves being back.
“It was a lot of fun in those days,” Miller concludes. “I just had a good time the whole time. I thought it was great being an Aggie.”