COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Nick LaMantia joked that he sleeps about three hours. The rest of the night, he's preparing for his role as Texas A&M's 12th Man.
"The other five hours when I should be sleeping, I'm sitting in front of a mirror waving a 12th Man towel," LaMantia said. "I want to get that down so people can have some new towel techniques."
LaMantia did a lot more than wave the signature 12th Man towel Saturday against Fresno State. The walk-on found himself at fullback after starter Chris Alexander was injured during the 47-45 triple overtime win.
For LaMantia, a junior from Mission, Texas, it was a dream come true. His teammates had only one piece of advice.
"Don't mess up," tight end Martellus Bennett said. "The 12th Man or not, you mess up, Fran's getting you."
LaMantia must have done something right. With him in the lineup, the Aggies racked up 318 yards rushing. He caught one pass for 1 yard, although LaMantia joked it was luck he even caught the football. On Sunday morning, LaMantia said his whole body ached, but "it was a great feeling to feel horrible."
Coach Dennis Franchione said the staff discusses every week which walk-on deserves to wear the No. 12 jersey. LaMantia said he's got a "kung fu grip on it if someone tries to take it away." He's worn No. 12 in 13 of the last 15 games dating back to last season.
"Nick won't give it up," Franchione said. "He hasn't let anybody take it away from him, and that's a real credit to him. The spirit, passion and commitment that he brings every week and the practice habits and his work habits are incredible."
To Aggies, No. 12 is more than just a number.
The 12th Man dates to the 1922 Dixie Bowl in Dallas. A&M coach Dana X. Bible requested E. King Gill, a reserve who left the football team to play basketball, come down from the press box and suit up, just in case A&M needed another player.
Gill did not get into the game, but there is a statue on the north end of Kyle Field honoring him and the 12th Man tradition.
Coach Jackie Sherrill instituted the 12th Man kickoff team in the 1980s. It was made up of all walk-ons. One player wore No. 12 on kickoffs during coach R.C. Slocum's tenure.
LaMantia said wearing No. 12 is a reflection of a player's attitude and work ethic.
"It's hard to explain," LaMantia said. "It's easily the most memorable thing I have ever accomplished in football. Without a doubt, I cannot say there is another time where I've been more proud of myself and the accomplishments I've had. Wearing No. 12 is a great honor."