Texas A&M is home of the 12th Man. The 12th Man this season happens to be Connor Choate, a graduate student from Coppell, Texas, who played high school lacrosse. He’s the team long snapper and wears the historic jersey No.12. The jersey was bestowed to him in August of 2021, by Texas A&M Head Coach, Jimbo Fisher.
Lacrosse was Connor’s first sport, having played in the yard with his older brother starting in third grade and then as a lefty long stick midfielder in high school. He earned the team’s Iron Man Award in 2015 and 2016.
Coppell is a suburb that sits northwest of Dallas. The Coppell Varsity Boy’s Lacrosse team won the Texas State High School Boy’s Lacrosse Championship in 2009, 2010, and 2011. Syracuse All-American defender Brandon Mullins is also a Coppell alum.
The 12th Man tradition at Texas A&M dates back to 1922 when the team was dropping like flies with injuries during a game against Centre College so the head coach called down E. King Gill from the press box to stand ready on the sidelines incase he needed to play. Even if he did not see playing time that day, a single No.12 has been given out to a member of the team after student tryouts or given to a walk-on who plays on special teams since 1991.
Long snappers don’t get a lot of attention as they have a nuanced role. The job requires balance, technique, strength, focus, composure, and a calm mindset. They must perform under pressure. When no one notices a long snapper, it means they’re doing a good job.
Connor Choate has gone from special teams anonymity to a famed player at Texas A&M. Wearing the No.12 means that he has numerous school and civic responsibilities. The spotlight is always on him. In 2021, his new found fame on campus was “overwhelming” but that he now feels grounded and more able to handle the notoriety. Looking around campus, College Station and Kyle Field, the place is littered with fans wearing No.12 jerseys. Before every game, Choate runs the flag onto the field in front of over 100,000 screaming fans. When he takes the field, all eyes are on the No.12.
I asked him if he still had a lacrosse stick and he quickly answered with, “hell yes.” Connor hasn’t given up his stick and returns to the wall to hammer out wall-ball reps when he needs a break from the stress of SEC football. There is medicine in the stick. It brings him peace, reasoning, and comfort.
Connor keeps his eye on Memorial Day Weekend and watches the PLL on ESPN. He received some small-time lacrosse offers coming out of Coppell but told me that long snapping became his future as a junior in high school. He roots for the Texas A&M MCLA lacrosse squad and made sure to mention to me how successful they’ve been.
His hair screams lacrosse, a mohawk-styled look that barber Carcaterra would endorse. Choate tightens his cut up weekly. His vibe is focused, but chill. He listens to ACDC and the Braveheart soundtrack before games. I watched him rehearse the details and could see his meticulous mindset, as his job is similar to that of being a FOGO.
He credits lacrosse for improving his athleticism, fearlessness, and ability to perform under stress. He loved running transition as well as checking and scrapping for groundballs coming off of faceoff wings. He told me that the hardest part of his job is snapping for field goals and extra points with a technique that allows the holder to place the ball down on the grass with the laces out, away from the kickers foot, without major adjustment.
Right now Texas A&M is on a five-game losing streak after falling to Florida on Saturday. It’s Texas A&M’s first five-game losing streak since 1980. The Aggies need to win out (Auburn, UMass and LSU) to become bowl game eligible.
When he’s not snapping in the SEC, Connor Choate enjoys his XBOX, fishing, and cheering for the Kansas City Chiefs. He’s currently working on a graduate degree and said he will miss the butterflies when this season ends. I get the feeling that his lacrosse career may have a second chapter.