NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State offensive line coach J Pond is proud of the Demons’ season-opening opponent, Texas A&M.

And he should be. He’s a born-and-bred Aggie, an offensive lineman at A&M from 2002-06, who never dreamed of going anywhere else.

His heart will admittedly leap when the Demons pull onto his alma mater’s campus Thursday afternoon, and when he takes his first steps on the almost sacred grass at Kyle Field before the 7:36 p.m. kickoff in the season opener for both teams.

But as passionate as he is about his love for Texas A&M, it does not trump his determination to upset the Aggies.

“Not an ounce of mixed loyalty about the opportunity,” he said. “We’re going over there to win.”

Pond addressed the NSU Demon Quarterback Club luncheon Monday, and immediately introduced them to Aggie culture.

“Howdy!” he said as he stepped near the podium. After a subdued but friendly response from the packed room, Pond went into coaching mode.

“At A&M, that’s how we greet people, with an enthusiastic ‘Howdy!’ And the correct response is the same thing, so let’s try that again,” he said.

It took a couple tries for the audience to measure up to Pond’s expectations. But it got there, just like the Demons’ offensive line has in its first few months under the guidance of the massive Abilene, Texas, native.

“I feel really good about our O-line group,” said first-year offensive coordinator Brad Smiley, who had Pond on his Trinity Valley Community College staff for seven seasons. “We’ve done a lot of shifting around out of both necessity and fitting the talent of our guys to what we’re doing, and they’ve responded great. Coach Pond’s done an excellent job bringing them along.”

Pond’s path to College Station was paved from birth, as the only child of a farmer.

“I wanted to be an Aggie from when I was very young. My father told me that was the only place he’d pay for school,” he said. “I loved it. I was very fortunate to be with my (position coach) Jim Bob Helduser and (head) Coach (Dennis) Franchione in that era. We had some great games, made lifelong friends, and it’s just a great school.

“There’s no school in America like that, with all the traditions and rituals. From Fish Camp to Aggie Yell to Aggie Muster to the Last Corps Trip, there’s so many things that only the people who go there really understand. We always say, ‘from the outside looking in, you can’t understand it, and from the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.’ I love that school.”

So when he became a part of the NSU coaching staff, and learned his first game would be a visit to his second home, it took his breath away for a moment or two.

“Definitely had to come to terms with going there to get a big victory to start our season here at Northwestern State, but it’s OK, they’ll have to get over it,” he said, breaking into a broad smile.

Pond had to endure an Aggie joke-telling contest before he spoke Monday, but he then shared his own favorite.

The most important one is ‘what do you call an Aggie with his college diploma? You call him boss,’ he said, “and that’s the only one that matters to me.”