Mandatory Credit: Photo by Sam Craft/AP/Shutterstock (13398390g) Texas A&M quarterback Max Johnson looks for a receiver during the first quarter of the team’s NCAA college football game against Miami, in College Station, Texas Miami Texas A M Football, College Station, United States – 17 Sep 2022
When Jim McIngvale spoke to the Texas A&M football team before last season, his message was simple and to the point.
“Just dream big and seize the moment,” he remembers telling the Aggies. “Being here, being at A&M, playing football, you’re gonna look back years from now and remember it as one of the great moments of your life.”
He drew on his personal experience, telling the team: “I played football at Texas in ’69 and ’70. I quit my sophomore year during spring practice because I wasn’t getting to play. I was disgruntled and transferred to North Texas. Don’t get me wrong. I had a great, great time at North Texas playing for Hayden Fry.”
“But 50 years later, I still have nightmares about leaving the University of Texas even though I probably wouldn’t ever play. It might have been better to stick it out and be at UT for all four years. But I didn’t do that.”
Mattress Mack’s relationship with Texas A&M stretches back more than three decades in the form of sponsorships, speeches to the business and marketing schools, occasional pep talks to the football team, and hiring dozens of Aggie interns at Gallery Furniture.
As the years have passed, as his ties to the school have deepened and he has built relationships with hundreds of A&M grads, his affinity for both the school and the spirit of Aggieland has grown exponentially.
This was a special weekend for him as he chatted up fans in and around Kyle Field, then attended the football game against Miami. His sense of what A&M is as an institution and what being an Aggie symbolizes become one of the things he most admires about the place.
“It’s the traditions, and the way Aggies stick together,” he said. “I’ve always been a big admirer of people who take care of their own, and to me, Aggies stick together and really, really take care of their own. It’s a sense of community.
“That’s one of the things I really like about Astros games. When you go there, you might be white, black, Hispanic, purple, whatever. But everybody comes together. It’s a community, and I think the Aggies have been doing that for 100 years.”
He feeds off the energy of the people who care so deeply about their school and also the collective energy of a packed house at Kyle Field. Perhaps no place in college football is louder when the Aggies are rolling. Dozens and dozens of A&M recruits across decades have said the experience of being on the sideline for an Aggie game was one of the biggest selling points in their decision to sign on the dotted line.
“I’m of the belief that 90 percent of the people that go to those games are from the Houston area,” he said. “I talk to people about how much they love Texas A&M. What a great thing it is for, not only the state of Texas but for Houston.”
“My brother (Ralph) is in the oil business in Louisiana, and a lot of his friends are Aggies. He’s always amazed at the fervor of those Aggie fans and how they cheer their team on. It’s healthy, it’s fun, and it’s good for everybody and certainly a huge economic boost for the entire College Station area.”
The Aggies beat TCU 28-9 in the 2001 Gallery Furniture Bowl. When the Aggies played in the 2006 Holiday Bowl, Mack flew his A&M interns to San Diego for the contest.
“They’re bright, ambitious, and respectful,” he said. “They’re great kids. I’m a huge fan. I went to Texas, but I am a huge Aggie fan and 100 percent in support of all things Aggie.”
If things had worked out slightly differently, he might have signed with A&M when he graduated from high school. He was seriously considering it, but with a brother playing for the Longhorns at the time, he opted for the family tie.
“I have no regrets about that,” he said. “But it would have been a change in my life journey if I had gone to A&M.”
He has seen the growth and excitement around sports at A&M grow in recent seasons with the hiring of high-profile coaches like Jimbo Fisher and Buzz Williams.
He has also watched the tidal wave of new construction with interest, beginning with an overhauled Kyle Field and the facilities used by the A&M football team and others.
He has been impressed with Fisher’s ability to sell the program to recruits; from there, he believes a championship contender is on the horizon.
“I think he’s great,” Mack said. “He’s a born salesman, very passionate about what he does. I’m impressed by the facilities and just the effort they put in to make it a first-class operation. Jimbo is the epicenter of that, and the fruits of that labor by everybody at Texas A&M and the 12th Man Club and other people will definitely pay off.
“I think the future is bright. I think they’re heading in the right direction. Obviously, the SEC is the big leagues of college football. Hopefully, they’ll have a good game tomorrow and forget about what happened last week (a 17-14 loss to Appalachian State), and move forward into the SEC (schedule).
“The Aggies may not be ready to play for national championship this year, but as all those great recruits get some experience, they should be in the hunt in the next couple of years. My ultimate dream is to see the Aggies play Texas in the national championship game.”