At its highest reaches, Kyle Field rises 182 feet, or nearly 17 stories, from the center of the Texas A&M campus in College Station, towering over almost everything else in sight.
It is a massive, mammoth construct. It's so mesmerizing that about a dozen years ago a group of undergrads began dreaming of climbing to the top of it and filming themselves attempting to throw a basketball all the way down into a hoop. It was then that “Dude Perfect” was born.
JerryWorld in Arlington may be the Taj Mahal to the religion of football in Texas. The oversized high school coliseums, from $60 million spots in the wealthy Dallas suburbs to blue-collar Ratliff Stadium out in Odessa, where an oil derrick once pumped in the parking lot, probably best serve as monuments to the game in the state.
Kyle Field fits in well though. It fits in perfectly. Strikingly large (110,000 capacity) considering its distance from major cities, exquisitely designed and impossible to ignore, the message is clear:
Football matters here. Football may matter more here than nearly anywhere.
And yet …
The Aggies haven’t claimed a national title since 1939 or even a conference one since 1998. Since Bear Bryant left in 1957, there have been just seven finishes in the AP top 10 and just three in the top five.
A&M, despite all the support, all the resources, all the talent surrounding it, has just never been a true national contender. Somehow, no coach has been able to make this work to the potential that every Aggie, and nearly every visitor, can see clearly as they walk past or into or to the top of Kyle Field.
Jimbo Fisher was one of those people, which is one of the reasons why before the 2018 season he left Florida State, where he’d won a national title, to come and give it a try.
On Wednesday, four seasons into his tenure, he signed the kind of recruiting class that not only may make everything possible but, at the very least, restores a measure of faith that this isn’t all just a mirage.
The Aggies will finish with the No. 1-ranked recruiting class in the country per 247 Sports and one of the top three per Rivals. It includes two five-star players (WR Evan Stewart and OL Walter Nolen) and 19 four-star prospects. More may still sign.
Unlike a lot of coaches, Fisher embraces the subjective scorecards of signing day. He knows there is a difference between being ranked sixth (as his first three Aggie classes were) and second or third.
“Being up there means you are relevant, you have a chance,” Fisher said on "The Paul Finebaum Show." “And not only in the state, but nationally. You can’t be in that part of the recruiting rankings without national attention and kids believing you can win a national championship and this is a destination school that they want to come to.”
It’s the national part that turned typically good to impressively great. (A&M has never ranked this high since Rivals began compiling rankings in 2002.)
The Aggies landed seven of the top 20 Rivals recruits in-state (and could still pick up at least two more) but also went out and signed top-100 national recruits from Tennessee, Florida, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Georgia.
It’s the kind of group that can stand toe-to-toe with anyone in the SEC and thus the country. Fisher had the Aggies on the edge of the playoffs in 2020, a 9-1 record and No. 5 ranking. This year they beat the Crimson Tide, but stumbled too often to capitalize on it.
The winning will have to come. They didn’t build that huge stadium to celebrate signing day. That said, Fisher isn’t shying away from expectations.
“I do think from a talent standpoint we are there, from an organizational standpoint we are there, now we just need to finish it off,” Fisher said.
It’s refreshing honesty, or at least acknowledgement. Although that has been Fisher throughout his career, sometimes to a fault.
As some veteran coaches spent this recruiting season, and this signing day in particular, bemoaning name, image and likeness, the transfer portal and all sorts of other disruptors, the 56-year-old has embraced it.
On losing quarterback Zach Calzada to the portal, he didn’t pout.
“Zach did a tremendous job, he played his heart out,” Fisher said. “We wanted him to be here. Times change, guys move. I have the utmost respect for him and wish him nothing but the best."
As for NIL deals impacting recruiting?
“There were a lot of NIL deals going on before all this was going on, they just weren’t legal,” Fisher joked on Finebaum. “Nobody told nobody.”
It’s easy to laugh when the recruits are rolling in. Here on an oh-so-fine signing day, Jimbo Fisher appears to have awakened this slumbering giant deep in the heart of Texas. What he does with it now, is the question.