Three letters dominated the Texas room at Will Rogers Memorial Center on Friday night as the Fort Worth/Tarrant County A&M Club held its coach's night featuring new Aggies football coach Kevin Sumlin.
No matter where Aggies walked or looked, they couldn't escape the SEC.
From T-shirts touting the Southeastern Conference's strength to yard signs proclaiming, "This is SEC country." From a giant welcome banner to table centerpieces, the new conference logo dominated the scene.
Sumlin said he is excited about all of the changes in College Station, but was realistic about the challenge.
"We are going to be playing in places we've never been, in a league we've never played in, against players we've never faced," Sumlin said before taking the stage to address around 750 Aggies. "There are a lot of challenges ahead of us."
After a yell practice, complete with A&M's yell leaders, and several other speakers, Sumlin took the stage to a standing ovation. He kept the crowd laughing and whooping throughout his speech, which lasted a little more than a half-hour.
"I love Fort Worth," Sumlin said.
Sumlin talked about what he has accomplished since taking over the program in December -- hiring a staff, working to improve strength and conditioning and building trust with his new players.
"Transition is very difficult," Sumlin said. "It's difficult for fans, for coaches, for players. But it's hardest on the seniors, guys who really didn't sign up for me.... As a coaching staff, we asked them to trust us. We really tried to get to know the players. I think we've made great strides in that area."
Sumlin also spoke about recruiting.
"We have to increase the talent level of our football program, particularly moving into the league we are moving into," said Sumlin, who referenced the presence of the past six national champions on the Aggies schedule this season. "We are going to show recruits what Texas A&M is all about. You have the opportunity to play football in the best league in the country and at the best school in the country.
"We have so much to sell. I've come out of both locker rooms at Kyle Field, and I understand what the 12th man is worth."
A&M has the team speed to compete this year, Sumlin said. But the Aggies will need to improve in size and depth.
"The SEC is a big and fast league with depth," he said. "We have to recruit and get guys in there. We have to increase the size profile of our team, particularly on the front line. In that league, when you get to games eight, nine and 10, it becomes an attrition league."
When he finished his prepared remarks, Sumlin took questions about what defensive scheme A&M will run (4-3), whether he will bring back an all-walk-on 12th-man kickoff team (no, but he will have a walk-on 12th man on the kickoff squad) and when he will select a quarterback (not soon).
Sumlin has been making rounds visiting Aggies clubs across the state. He was in Austin on Thursday and has already visited Dallas. Earlier this week, he and several A&M players were in Hoover, Ala., for the SEC media days.
He will visit Aggies clubs in Houston, College Station and San Antonio next week.
"Everybody has been really excited about this year, and they should be," Sumlin said. "We're going to be in the best league in the country, playing in some great venues. I got in trouble for saying that everywhere we go is going to be like Kyle Field, but people have figured out that it's the truth. It's going to be a lot of fun."
While he said he enjoys meeting fans, Sumlin is looking forward to August. The A&M players will begin practice on Aug. 3.
"I will be excited to get back to football," Sumlin said.
Brent Shirley, 817-390-7760