It’s not uncommon to see college football apparel throughout West Texas, or anywhere in Texas for that matter. Stickers, jerseys and shirts are just a few things fans use to display their pride.
But in Big Spring, the No.17 in maroon is just a little more popular these days. Texas A&M quarterback and Big Spring native Ryan Tannehill is just a little more popular these days.
“Any time you can have support from people back home, it definitely means a lot and I definitely appreciate that people are willing to support me,” Tannehill said. “It’s exciting and I just hope they keep supporting my team throughout this whole thing.”
The junior has had a whirlwind of a season and looks to put the finishing touches on it with a win over No. 11 LSU (AP Top 25) in the 75th AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic at 7 p.m. Friday in Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
What’s made the season a special one is Tannehill’s rise to quarterback for the Aggies and the way he’s led No.18 A&M to the cusp of a 10-win season.
What started out as another season at receiver for the junior turned out to be the season he finally accomplished a long-time goal — being the starting quarterback at A&M.
“Never saw any action coming this year at quarterback,” Tannehill said. “Came into the season with Jerrod (Johnson) being the established starter. I really just expected to play the whole year at receiver like I did last year and just try to be the best receiver I could while I was out there. Got the opportunity to move in at quarterback and just tried to seize it.”
Tannehill, in his mind, has always been a quarterback and that’s the way it was during his time here at Big Spring High School in a wing-T offense.
Playing receiver at A&M wasn’t a bad thing, though. While being a
quarterback was something he wanted to do, Tannehill said he wanted to excel at receiver because that’s what the team needed him to do.
After splitting time with Johnson at quarterback in A&M’s win over Kansas on Oct. 23, 2010, it wasn’t until the Texas Tech game when he had the opportunity to prove what he could do as a signal caller. And he delivered that day, throwing for a school-record 449 yards.
In five starts, Tannehill has completed 115-of-179 passes for 1,254 yards and eight touchdowns. It’s been enough to garner an All-Big 12 Conference honorable mention nod.
Being a wideout only aided the transition to quarterback. Tannehill credits a lot of his success this season to his ability to relate to his receivers on a level most quarterbacks can’t. He’s been in their shoes, knows what it’s like trying to recognize coverages and run routes. That makes it easier for Tannehill to run the offense.
He’s led the Aggies to some of the biggest wins they’ve had in a while, too — against Tech, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas. Tannehill said the 33-19 win over OU and the 9-6 win over Nebraska were the biggest. Those are wins that make programs relevant.
Relevance is really what it’s all about for Tannehill. This season has not only been enjoyable because he’s had a chance to play at quarterback, but the junior said he is proud to bring attention and buzz back around a program he believes should regularly be in the national spotlight.
“It’s tough when your team loses relevance,” he said. “I think the last couple of years, we kind of lost our relevance, kind of lost our place on the national stage. It was one of our team goals, just to bring back the relevance at A&M and put us back in the spotlight where we feel like we should be.”
The buzz has definitely surrounded his hometown on Saturdays this fall, too.
Tannehill said he regularly receives text messages of encouragement from his parents and his parent relay messages to him from friends and supporters here in Big Spring.
But now there is a chance to make that buzz a mainstay around A&M. Tannehill said a win over LSU would do that.
What makes LSU so dangerous is its athleticism. Tannehill said it’s hard to fail when there are playmakers across the field and LSU has those types of players every year.
Friday night’s game in Arlington is an opportunity for the Aggies to turn heads if they haven’t already garnered enough attention this season.
“This is the Cotton Bowl, this is a Top 10 team in LSU, who has national relevance as well,” Tannehill said. “I think this is a huge game for us, too. It’s one of those you need to win for your program.”