Everyone has a few items of smaller clothing that hang in the closet, just in case those few extra pounds decide to melt away.
As a walk-on offensive lineman two seasons ago, junior Cagan Baldree brought a few of those shirts and pairs of pants to Texas A&M, just in case.
Now more than 20 pounds lighter, Baldree has unlocked a new corner of his wardrobe and found his pathway to the playing field as the 17th-ranked Aggies’ newest fullback.
“It’s kind of crazy to look back at some of those pictures,” Baldree said.
Before pictures of Baldree in an official A&M uniform existed, he grew up wearing replica Aggie jerseys while camping in a family friend’s RV outside Kyle Field before football games. Baldree and his buddy, Braden Wise, would envision themselves suiting up for the Aggies, while throwing passes around the Reed Arena parking lot. Occasionally, they would sneak onto adjacent sports fields or into the basketball arena itself, rebelliously discovering new parts of Aggieland.
“I was always raised an Aggie,” Baldree said. “I’ve never had any second questions or thoughts about any other school at any point. Having the opportunity to just be around this campus and see all those things and now be here firsthand as a player and a student, all those things tie together. There’s no other place like A&M, and there is nothing I would trade for any of those memories.”
Following in the footsteps of his uncle, Baldree packed his belongings in Carthage and traveled down to College Station to continue the family legacy. As an added bonus, he walked onto the football team as an undersized offensive lineman weighing under 300 pounds.
But Baldree knew that playing time would be slim at his size.
“He was a 275-pound guy, in that range,” head coach Jimbo Fisher said. That ain’t big enough.”
Baldree saw the transformation of former 12th Man Cullen Gillaspia from linebacker to fullback last season and spoke with his position coaches and Fisher in January about making a similar change. Having played some tight end in high school before converting to the offensive line, Baldree figured fullback seemed like a good fit if he could lose some weight, which he did thanks to a new diet and offseason workouts.
“It’s a selfless role in my opinion,” Fisher said. “Most of the time it’s just going to be blocking. He is a tremendous, tremendous human being.”
Like those slimmer clothes in his closet, the move fit him well. With gained speed came opportunities on special teams. Even better, the whole team learned the former big man had the hands of a good pass-catching fullback, a fact Kellen Mond said surprised Fisher.
“He said, ‘I can catch, Coach,’” Fisher said. “I said, ‘All lineman say they can catch because they want the ball.’ When we put him there and run our offense, he catches the ball really well.”
Gillaspia made a lasting impression on the program when he took a handoff at the end of the Aggies’ 52-13 Gator Bowl victory last season and rumbled into the end zone on a 13-yard carry. Baldree said he’s not making any demands for a similar spotlight but is certainly ready should his number be called.
“If I get the chance to get my hands on it, then I’m not going to let myself get denied,” he said. “You might not get too many opportunities.”
It’s two mantras Baldree now lives by: always be prepared and don’t throw away old clothes.
“You might as well [hang on to smaller clothes],” he said. “You never know what is going to happen.”