Texas A&M will travel to the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex to face Arkansas in the inaugural Southwest Classic Saturday at 6:45 p.m. at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, but for four Aggies the game will be much more than just another road trip. Junior Von Miller and sophomores Garrick Williams, Cyrus Gray and Tony Jerod-Eddie will be making a trip back home to play in the Metroplex for the first time since the foursome played high school football together at DeSoto High School.
Miller and Williams headed to College Station as part of the Aggie's 2007 recruiting class and were followed by Gray and Jerod-Eddie in the class of 2008. All four are now starters and major parts of the Aggie roster with Gray at running back and Miller, Jerod-Eddie and Williams starters on defense.
"Growing up in Dallas and being a Cowboys fan and growing up with the other Texas Stadium and them building the new Texas Stadium it's probably the best venue to play in in the National Football League," Miller said. "Ever since they started constructing it we marked that down on the calendar when we were going to play Arkansas. Me, Tony, Cyrus and Garrick have been looking forward to going back and having everybody watching us play in Dallas."
The game, however, will have even more meaning for the DeSoto four as they will honor current DeSoto player Connor Borner. Gray and Miller will change their numbers to No. 24 Saturday, Borner's number, to salute Borner who was paralyzed in a football practice in May when he lowered his head wrong while covering a wide receiver and fell to the ground limp.
Only two players can share a number in college football with one on offense and the other on defense. Miller normally wears No. 40 while Gray wears No. 32.
"It's a very special thing for them. They have a relationship with a young man from their high school that has been faced with a tremendous challenge," said A&M head coach Mike Sherman. "They asked if they could do it based on their relationship with him and what it means to this young man, so I think it's kind of a neat deal. I'm glad that they're thinking about more than themselves and thinking a little bit outside the box, and I think that's important."
Borner is a 16-year old junior at DeSoto and wasn't on the varsity with the foursome when the four current Aggies were at DeSoto, but that doesn't mean they didn't know him. In a system as prolific as DeSoto's is in Texas high school football, players learn the system early in middle school and keep in touch with those that came before them.
"He's about three years younger than me. Growing up in DeSoto everybody from the junior highs all the way up to high school run the same offense and we use guys from the junior high level on JV and all that stuff, so I knew him," Miller said. "It wasn't like he'd come over to the house and all that stuff but I knew him from school and football and anyone on the football team is a like a brother to me."
The salute to Borner isn't starting with the number change Saturday, and it probably won't end there either. The four Aggies from DeSoto have kept up with Borner and his surgery in which he had the C5 and C6 vertebrae fused to relieve the pressure being put on his spinal cord by the C6 vertebrae in an eight-hour surgery in July.
"Ever since we were informed about the injury me, Garrick, Tony and Cyrus visited him in the hospital and have just been like what can we do to show that we have his back even though he already knows that we have his back and support him," Miller said. "We just wanted to show him again that we're here for him and he can lean on us. DeSoto, our alumni, it's not like the Aggie network but we take care of each other too and keep in touch with everybody and it's a family."