The Wrecking Crew Defense-‘Pulling the Pin on a Grenade’
The Wrecking Crew defense was an elite unit of the Texas A&M Aggies in the 80s and 90s. They were some of the best defenses in college football during that time.
R.C. Slocum, former defensive coordinator (1982-1988) and head coach at Texas A&M from 1989 to 2002, likened the swarming attacking style of his defense to “pulling the pin on a hand grenade.”
On every play, the Crew arrived at the ball carrier en masse and were pissed off. Their mission, and yes they jubilantly accepted it, was to separate the football (or body parts) from the ball carrier.
For example, there is a play known in the annals of Aggie football as “The Hit.”
November 9, 1991: the Aggies traveled to play TCU in Fort Worth. Horned Frogs WR Kyle McPherson lined up to run a square-in route over the middle. Unfortunately for McPherson, Texas A&M LB Quentin Coryatt was lined up in the middle.
TCU’s quarterback delivered the ball toward McPherson, and Coryatt delivered “The Hit” from way back in his native Virgin Islands. Coryatt hit McPherson so hard that McPherson left his feet and his body went vertical and parallel to the ground.
When he landed on the ground, McPherson was done for the rest of the season. He suffered a broken jaw (in 2 places) and broken ribs.
In addition, other TCU players were knocked out of the game. The Aggies won a war of attrition and the game, 44-7.
The Wrecking Crew Defense was Highly-Ranked
The Wrecking Crew defense ranked in the Top 10 in total defense, scoring defense, passing defense, and turnover margin. They were a Top 10 unit in 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, and 1998.
The “Wrecking Crew” Roster
Here are some of the standouts of the “Wrecking Crew” over the years:
Chet Brooks, 1986-1987:
Brooks coined the phrase “The Wrecking Crew”
Johnny Holland, LB 1985:
Johnny Holland was an All-American and made 455 career tackles, good enough for #2 in school history.
John Roper, LB 1987:
Roper was an All-American and the Southwest Conference (SWC) Defensive Player of the Year. In addition, he was named All-SWC twice.
Aaron Wallace, LB 1986-1989:
Wallace holds the school record in sacks with 42.
Marcus Buckley, DL 1989-1992:
Buckley was named a Consensus All-American in 1992.
Kevin Smith, DB:
A 3X All-SWC selection, Smith was also a 1st Team All-American in 1991. He was inducted into the Texas A&M Sports Hall of Fame in 1997.
Quentin Coryatt, LB 1990-1991:
“The Hit” man, Coryatt played just 2 seasons in College Station. He registered 184 career total tackles and was a 2X All-SWC selection. As a result, Coryatt was the #2 overall pick to the Indianapolis Colts in the 1992 NFL Draft.
Patrick Bates, DB 1991-1992:
Bates earned All-American honors in 1992.
Sam Adams, DL 1991-1993:
Adams was the SWC Newcomer of the Year in 1991 and a 1st Team Freshman All-American. He was selected All-SWC (1992). In 1993, he racked up 78 tackles, 13 TFLs, 10.5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries.
He was named 1st Team All-American and National Defensive Player of the Year by Sports Illustrated. In addition, he was named SWC Defensive Player of the Year. As a result, Adams was the #8 overall pick by the Seattle Seahawks in the 1994 NFL Draft.
He was a Texas A&M Sports Hall of Fame inductee in 2001.
Aaron Glenn, DB 1992-1993:
Glenn was the SWC Newcomer of the Year (1991). He was named 1st Team All-SWC (1992) and Consensus All-American (1993). Glenn was selected in the 1st round (#12 overall) by the New York Jets in the 1994 NFL Draft.
He was a Texas A&M Sports Hall of Fame inductee in 2000;
Ray Mickens, DB 1992-1995:
Mickens was a 2X All-SWC selection (1994-1995) and a 2X All-American (1994-1995).
Dat Nguyen, LB 1995-1998:
Nguyen was perceived to be too small to play linebacker at 5-11, 238 pounds. However, he is considered the best defensive player in Texas A&M history and one of the best defensive players of all time in the Big-12 Conference.
Nguyen holds the school record for tackles (517), starts (51), and tackles per game average (10/game). He was named the SWC Defensive Player of the Year (1995) and is a 3X All-Big 12 selection (1996-1998).
Nguyen led the Aggies in tackles for four straight years.
In 1998, Nguyen was selected as a unanimous All-American. He won the Bednarik Award but missed winning the Butkus Award by ONE vote. He set a Cotton Bowl record with 12 tackles, along with 3 TFLs and an INT.
Nguyen was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and selected to the All-Time Big 12 Team.
He was selected in the 3rd round pick by the Dallas Cowboys in the 1999 NFL Draft. Nguyen was inducted into the Texas A&M Sports Hall of Fame in 2004.
The “Wrecking Crew” defense led the Aggies to eight conference titles: they won the Southwest Conference Championship in 1985, 1986, 1987, 1991, 1992, 1993, and 1995; and one Big 12 title in 1998. It is the standard that every Aggie defense is held to on Saturdays in the fall.
Can Defensive Coordinator D.J. Durkin pull the pin on the grenade in 2023? We shall see.
Thanks for reading.