Strickland: Aggies catching up to Texas

With Texas A&M experiencing huge on-field success in its first season in the Southeastern Conference, the recruiting war the Aggies have with Texas is as hot as it has ever been. HornsNation's Carter Strickland looks at how the Aggies have become a real threat to the Longhorns. Here's an excerpt from Strickland's story:

The first -- and most important -- step, as it always is when preparing for battle, was to meet and understand the opponent.

Led by new coach Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M finished the regular season 10-2 including a win over No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

And the one Texas A&M faced welcomed the Aggies with unsuspected grace rippled with dismissive undertones. They were the Texas Longhorns, after all -- long set apart as the standard bearer for all the opulence that can be heaved upon college football programs. To show their wares to the Aggies merited no worry, for a pauper can rarely fathom how to gain what an aristocrat has behind the gates.

But the gates were held wide that day in 2002 as then-Texas A&M coach R.C. Slocum, former Shell Oil CEO and major Aggies donor Jack Little, athletic director Wally Groff as well as three others were met at the Texas football facilities. A tour from the weight room to the office of coach Mack Brown ensued.

"[Brown's] office looked out over the field there, and he had a nice office area and then had a real nice living area where he could kind of entertain parents and recruits," Slocum said.

Slocum's office, he said, was in a parking garage, a desk with two stiff-backed chairs facing it. If a mother and father wanted to join their son to hear what Slocum had to offer, a folding chair would have to be wedged in.

"It was eye-opening to see what they had and we didn't," Little said.

Texas did have it all; oil drums full of money, national wins, a boardroom-to-barn-door coach, five-star recruits, everything but the sense to know it had just allowed a Trojan horse mission that would change the path of a program and a rivalry 10 years later.

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