Former A&M Football Players Reflect On Bonfire Collapse

By: Shane McAuliffe Email
By: Shane McAuliffe Email

The Texas A&M University Bonfire was centered around the Aggie spirit and the school's annual rivalry with the University of Texas on the football field. One week before it was set to burn, the unthinkable happened.

Texas A&M Head Coach R.C. Slocum first got the news in the early morning hours.

"You knew at that time that it was something that was really bad and probably going to get worse," said Slocum.

Stuck in a moment of time, the entire Texas A&M football team looked to help those who looked to them for so long.

"What can we do? You kind of felt helpless. We said shoot, lets go over there and see if we can help so we didn't wait to ask, we just loaded up the trucks," said former Texas A&M wide receiver Matt Bumgardner.

"A group of us seniors said hey lets go out there and help them. So we got together as a group and decided that if we're going to go then we're all going," said former quarterback Randy McCown.

"That's when the players came over to the Bonfire site to help with the continuing removal of the logs," Bumgardner said.

McCown and Bumgardner had never seen the sheer size of the Bonfire construction.

"You know we never got to go to Bonfire. We would go the night before and all we saw was a bunch of people and the thing go up in flames. We never got to be up close and personal to it. So just to see how what it was and it was amazing to see how many logs went into this thing," said McCown.

"I remember sitting there thinking, Wow, 24 hours ago students were out here having fun, celebrating the great tradition we had in Bonfire," said Bumgardner.

When the team arrived to the site, rescue efforts were still in the process.

"At first, they were hesitant to let us through. The way they were bringing the pile down or disassembling it, they were doing it by hand. We were some of the biggest guys on campus so we told them that we're going to help, so you might as well let us through," said McCown.

"To come over and see in the truest sense the spirit of the bonfire of Aggies working together. To see our football players, corps guys, non regs, just everybody in there together with a common goal of removing those logs, which is a tremendous task," said Slocum.

"You know this thing was built to represent our burning desire to beat Texas and these guys did it for us so the least we can do is go out there and help them," said McCown.

The collapse made everyone forget about football. It was about supporting one another in a tragedy that affected some of the toughest guys on campus.

"I didn't know any of the people that passed away but you feel a closeness with them. That's what is weird about the Aggie spirit. You really felt like you knew them in a way, we were all kind of in mourning," said Bumgardner.

"Everybody was working together and that was one of the things I'll never forget. The unity that you felt just personified what A&M is about," said McCown.

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