What if Seth Small hadn’t had the craziest night at Kyle Field in Texas A&M’s life-changing victory over Alabama? Sure, Small hit the winning kick that delighted the 12th man, but the person Small took a photo with in the locker room had an even more unlikely night.
Alex Sunderland is not an Aggie. He is a student at UTSA. He is 22 years old and had never attended an A&M game before finding a VIP pass on the ground outside the stadium. What happened next was the makings of the social media legend:
“I didn’t buy any tickets for the game at all,” says Sunderland. “I had no intention of going to the game. This VIP pass that I found is not even to enter the game, it was an event for a local radio station in College Station. I shouldn’t have gone in everywhere I entered.
Sunderland is not kidding. The pass designer even uploaded a TikTok echoing that exact sentiment.
Sunderland was outside the stadium drinking at a Latino community tailgate – he wasn’t even watching the game, and he wasn’t even at the tailgate the pass gave him access to when he did. met on the ground. But it was written VIP in bold, so he figured he might as well give it a try. Best case: he enters the game. Worst case: he comes back to the party.
He ended up arriving at the stadium around half-time and didn’t feel like sitting up with the nosebleeds.
“I’m not going to go to the nosebleed section; I’m going to go to the front row, ”Sunderland says. “I’m trying to get the best seats at home. As I walk down the stairs between the stands, I remember when I was in my final year in high school, I was recruited by UTSA to be a kicker. So I knew that the recruits, we were all seated in a specially designated section and that they always had good seats. So I was like, I’ll just say I was a rookie. I know they treat football players and football staff like royalty at College Station. Everyone treats them so well, that’s why I said, ‘You know what, I’m going to pretend to be a rookie and I’m going to get the special treatment that I deserve.’ “
So Sunderland told an usher he was a rookie, and while he waited for the usher to decide what to do with him, some of Aggie’s teenage fans showed him some hospitality and let him s ‘sit in their place. He was directed onto the field to a secondary club area where the rookies are accommodated. That’s when his legacy came into play.
Sunderland’s parents are Mexican, although he was born in San Antonio. He joked that his home growing up might as well be the Mexican Consulate. He was not allowed to speak English at home because his parents wanted to preserve his roots. He learned both languages simultaneously as a child and is fluent in both, but A&M recruiting staff didn’t need to know.
“I see her go get this guy, and this guy comes up to me and there it hits me. I’m like ‘Oh my God, these rookies have been together all day,’ ”Sunderland says. “They’re going to know I’m not supposed to be there with them. This guy’s been with them, he’s going to admit that I’m not supposed to be there. What do I do? So when he walks up to me and says “are you a rookie?” I saw it on his face. He just didn’t believe me and the first thing that came to my mind was: I’m going to pretend I don’t speak English. So I just say, ‘Yeah, me kicker, me kicker from Mexico. Me rookie kicker. ‘ And he said, ‘Oh yeah, sure; Follow me.’ I said under my breath, ‘There is no way this is going to happen.’ “
But it was.
Sunderland had a cup of coffee with the UTSA program as a Roadrunners back-up after kicking a local high school in San Antonio, and it was her first time at Kyle Field, so all was not complete manufacturing. From the A&M Hall of Champions, he ended up in third place. He thought the kicker’s excuse would hold because even though he’s 22, A&M athletes Actually the recruits seem older than him. He told those sitting next to him that he wasn’t sure to commit as he was planning to go to Clemson next week. He ended up speaking to an A&M hiring manager in fluent Spanish, claiming he was lost and that’s why he only showed up at halftime. They let him sit and enjoy the game. And then it ended thanks to Small’s game winner.
Sunderland joined the group which rushed onto the pitch.
“I am on the ground. I’m like, ‘This is crazy; What am I doing here?’ Literally an hour and a half ago I was drinking from a hatchback and now I’m rushing out into the field for a school I don’t even go to. So after two or three minutes I’m on the pitch and everyone is having fun. I realize I don’t just want to be on the pitch, I want to try and go to the locker room. I find the first player I see, I slap his shoulder, I say: ‘Yes, me kicker, me rookie. Changing room? Changing room?’ And the guy says, ‘Did they tell you to go to the locker room?’ Just follow me.’ “
Somehow the player he ended up meeting was backup kicker Randy Bond. He followed him into the tunnel, where his cunning passed its most severe test.
“I see five policemen and I’m like, ‘Game over, they’re blocking all the fans in,'” Sunderland says. “So Bond comes in first and I’m about five inches behind him and I just flash my pass and say ‘VIP’ and the cop says ‘OK, go ahead.’ I’m like, ‘This is crazy; this pass is taking me everywhere. I’m just in the Texas Aggies locker room. I can’t believe I’m here.’
He figured if someone approached him while he was in the locker room, he would pretend he was with Bond “… but no one ever asked me for anything. craziest part of this whole experience, no one doubted me for a second.
Those no doubts included quarterback Zach Calzada, who is also Latino and, shortly after playing the game of his life, met the Mexican rookie.
“And in Spanish [Calzada] go ¿Que onda, guey? Do you speak Spanish? “Sunderland said.” He spoke Spanish to me. So he spoke to me for about 10 to 15 seconds. Some players were laughing. And I’m like ‘Let’s take a picture.’ So I took a picture with the quarterback. I’m like, ‘Good game.’ He’s like ‘Dude, I hope you come over here. This is a great school.’
He took a photo with Calzada, then asked Bond (also pictured above) who the head coach was. Sunderland says he had never even seen a photo of Jimbo Fisher.
“[Fisher] was just sitting on a bench with his head in his hands. He was in his moment. He can’t believe what just happened. He just beat Alabama, ”recalls Sunderland. “So I’m like ‘I’m going to go talk to him.’ ”
He patted Fisher on the shoulder, thanked him for the invitation for his “recruiting visit,” then got a pitch.
“He said” I’m glad you had a good time. We have a great program here. We have a big family and a big community. Hope you really think about it. And I laugh all alone this guy is recruiting me right now. He has no idea I’m 22. “
He took a picture with Fisher …
… Then got a prime location for Fisher’s raucous post-game speech (Sunderland plans to sell the recording as NFT at a friend’s request).
Before leaving, he met the real hero of the evening, Small.
“I approach him and say, ‘Great game, kick: más o menos.’ Then I say, ‘No, just kidding.’ And then Sunderland overthrew its fellow specialists.
“I was like, ‘I have to tell these guys; I feel bad for not telling them the truth. So I walk over to the two kickers and I’m like, “I’m fluent in English. I am not a rookie. I go to UTSA, I’m actually a kicker, I kicked in high school. I just found this pass on the ground. I just found my way here. I can’t believe this is happening. Instead of being angry, they laugh. They’re like, ‘What? It’s crazy; you are a great actor. I totally believed you. Good luck to you; do not steal anything. And then I got out, and it was my adventure.
With his secret leaked, he left and went to a bar with his friends, then later to a house party where he was the star of the show (at that point, his 24 hour Instagram story had warned his subscribers of his night). He returned to San Antonio on Sunday and was shocked at how a story he hadn’t even planned to initially record as TikTok with a one-take voiceover exploded.
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He did a radio interview and was quoted in his local newspaper, all thanks to a bit of liquid courage, broken false English, and a pass that felt just real enough to take him through Kyle Field. And if it’s his last time, he’ll have a whole story to tell about going from a hatchback to the winning locker room.
“If they ban me from the stadium, I don’t care. I will never stay here again; it does not matter.”
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