On Saturdays in the fall, they have only one thing on their mind when donning their starched white uniforms and matching athletic shoes: leading the Aggie team to victory and preserving the 12th Man spirit that defines Texas A&M University. Finance majors Ben Debayle ’09 and Casey Schaefer ’10, both from Katy, are both serving as Aggie yell leaders this year, balancing this demanding position with their role as students at Mays Business School.

For yell leaders, performances are a year-round activity, not just something they do during football season. The group travels across Texas from week to week, even in the summer and on school holidays. But take away their celebrity status and the Aggie yell leaders are just your everyday college students, challenged to manage the tasks that fill their planners. Debayle and Schaefer say that their ability to handle such high expectations is due to their experience in the Corps of Cadets.

Finance majors Ben Debayle ’09 (second from left) and Casey Schaefer ’10 (far right) are both serving as Aggie yell leaders this year.

“I think the Corps really prepared us both for this. The Corps responsibilities and the pressure you get in your freshman year really prepare you for what you have to do as a yell leader,” said Debayle. While fellow Aggies enjoyed leisurely summer activities, Debayle and Schaefer joined the three other yell leaders in almost daily performances. The group visited several Texas cities to perform for A&M Clubs, Aggie Mom’s Clubs, and schools; the group often had to split up to cover all of the events. Adding to the packed schedule, Debayle, Schaefer, and the rest of their crew attended football two-a-days, promoted and planned First Yell, and introduced traditions to the next generation of Aggies at each session of Fish Camp.

Debayle and Schaefer say that being part of one of Texas A&M’s greatest traditions makes it all worthwhile. “There’s not much we can complain about. Yeah, there are times when we get only one or two hours of sleep a night, but it’s nothing we can’t handle. We did this freshman year in the Corps, so now it’s nothing. We just get up and go, just do it,” said Schaefer.

Along with a positive attitude, both Debayle and Schaefer have applied the ideals of hard work and dedication learned in the Corps to their career goals. They both plan to attend law school after graduation, and currently make school a priority despite their busy schedules. Both are excellent scholars, achieving high marks in the classroom.

For Schaefer, the desire to spread the spirit of the 12th Man could in part be a result of his Aggie bloodline. His father graduated with an accounting degree in 1977, and his grandfather is a proud member of the class of 1928. “Looking at where we’ve come from and where we’re at now, this is just such a special time at Texas A&M. It’s awesome to keep that Aggie Spirit alive, the thing that makes this school so special,” he said.

For Debayle, who serves as chaplain for the Corps of Cadets, being a yell leader is more than just about the tradition; he also sees it as a unique ministry opportunity as he gets to interact with so many people. “I really looked up to the upperclassmen in the Corps when I was a freshman, they taught me a lot about myself spiritually and physically. I always knew this position would be a great opportunity to be there for another freshman someday,” he said.

Being an Aggie yell leader isn’t all business. “We’re expected to be polite young gentlemen, but when we get a free chance and it’s just the five of us, we always find a way to have fun and get into a little trouble—but not too much of course,” said Debayle.

Fun and games aside, the Aggie yell leaders help build the foundation of tradition at A&M and Debayle and Schaefer are proud of their involvement. “A&M has changed, it’s just the nature of things. But one thing that will never change is the spirit, and we are the leaders that are responsible for keeping that alive on campus,” said Debayle.