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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Answering the call: Justin Bass

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Tanner Garza — THE BATTALION

During the season opener against South Carolina, AJ Hilliard made his debut for the Aggie football program at outside linebacker. However, he suffered a dislocated ankle injury, effectively ending his season before it even started. Hilliard had already collected three solo tackles and was a key piece in an already-thin Aggie linebacker corps.
The immediate question for the A&M coaching staff was this: Who would replace their starter?
The answer: veteran Justin Bass. In his previous three years at A&M, the 6-foot-2, 231-pound senior from Plano, Texas, had recorded a total of just 14 tackles. Bass, a former walk-on, answered the bell.
Since A&M’s win over the Gamecocks, Bass has started in every game, racking up 37 tackles, No. 2 on the team behind safety Howard Matthews (39).
“This is a dream come true,” Bass said. “Finally being able to start and play and be out there is great. It’s something I’ve been waiting my whole life to do. I’m just trying to take advantage of it while I have it.”
However, Bass is uninterested with the figures. When told he had the second-most tackles on the team, Bass seemed surprised, laughed and said it was the first time he had heard so.
“To be honest, I haven’t really looked at [the statistics],” Bass said. “I just go out and focus on the game.”
Ben Bass, Justin’s older brother, played three years in the Aggie football program at defensive end before being signed by the Dallas Cowboys in 2012. He went on to play two seasons with the Cowboys before being traded to the New England Patriots last summer. Bass said his older brother and his dad had influence on his decision to be an Aggie.
“[My brother’s] a big part of me being here,” Bass said. “I’ve been going to his games for so long. I felt like going anywhere else was just weird because I felt like this was my family, this was my home. Anytime I tried to go somewhere else, it didn’t have the same type of atmosphere or I didn’t feel the same love. It just felt different to me and I had to come here. My dad also helped me with that decision. He told me this was going to be the best four years of my life, so pick a place, even if I didn’t play football, where I’d want to go. I felt like this was my home. I’ve got to go. I’ve got to go to A&M.”
Looking up to his brother, Bass knew his decision to come to A&M was the right one.
“[Ben] was in on that fourth-down stop against OU in 2010,” Bass said. “That was one of my favorite plays with him. It was enjoyable to see him out there and make plays with the team. That might’ve been the loudest I’ve ever heard Kyle Field. That was ridiculous to me. And that was one of the reasons I wanted to come here — all the energy everybody showed after that, and the love and the passion.”
Bass said his brother influenced him by showing him what persistence looks like, and described his work ethic with three simple words.
‘“Never-quit attitude,’” Bass said. “It’s not necessarily that he’s ever spoken it to me, just the way he was here. He set an example by never quitting and always persevering. It was like a show by example more than actually advice.”
As a junior, Ben was unable to play football due to academics. Bass recalled what he learned from seeing his brother, who earned a spot on the team his senior year, face such adversity.
“It showed me that basically anything is possible and just how good God is,” Bass said. “It almost seemed like an impossible task for him to fight through all that. That helped me just as an example. Whatever the circumstances are, keep on fighting and you can be successful.”
Bass also credits his success to lessons learned from his father.
“It’s just something I learned when I was little,” Bass said. “My dad never taught me how to quit. Anything I did, I was giving 110 percent. Just keep on going. If I’m in it, I’m giving it all I got.”
The coaching staff has described Bass as a “swing linebacker” due to his ability to play all three linebacking positions.
“Justin Bass has been a jack of all trades and has really helped us,” said head coach Kevin Sumlin. “He can play several positions and really has the opportunity to get Jordan [Mastrogiovanni] and Shaan [Washington] off the field, which is something we need to do.”
In Saturday’s game against No. 3 Ole Miss, the first home game in nearly a month, Bass said the 12th Man will be a big factor.
“It’s huge,” Bass said. “We’ve been waiting to get back home and it’s good to finally return. Anytime you have a home field advantage it’s always a bonus because it gives you energy when maybe you don’t think you have any left. Besides, it’s always hard to beat 12 people on the field.”

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