Right now America’s coaches are speaking to their players about the many lessons the game of football is teaching them. Football, it is said, provides the roadmap for educating young men on the pivotal role perseverance will play in their lives. They learn that adversity and competition are two of the greatest nemeses to be conquered. They’re very serious threats, indeed, yet they are unavoidable. Successfully handling each of these antagonists will make players stronger and more confident when the next challenge arises – whether it is on or off the field.
Normally you can determine how a team’s season is going merely by listening to what the coach is telling his players. Coaches must adequately address adversity or, in many cases, success – as each is extremely important from a team standpoint.
Good coaches use a combination of different approaches, as is likely the case this week in Aggieland. When you’re about to go on the road after playing four straight at home, as are the Aggies, the road warrior ‘psychology’ kicks in. The ‘away’ game is a necessary evil in the sports world and must be approached strategically and intelligently. All stadiums are not created equally.
A&M is about to embark on a two-game road trip for its fifth and sixth games of the season, just as it did in 2012 under the proven road-master, Kevin Sumlin. The first stop is Fayetteville, Arkansas and the second is two weeks later, in Oxford.
If last season’s results are any indication, both of these road games will be much closer than the A&M faithful expect. In 2012, the roles were reversed and one of the locales was different. The Ags first headed to Ole Miss prior to playing the postponement game in Shreveport vs. Louisiana Tech. As memory serves, the Aggies barely escaped each of those venues with two very narrow victories, although they were double-digit favorites in both.
First, the Aggies headed to Oxford installed as a 12-point favorite over the young Rebels. With five minutes to play, the Rebels were poised to hand the new entry into the SEC its first road loss ever in conference play. Then Johnny Manziel happened. After barely escaping a safety, Manziel threw deep on third down, hitting his receiver dead-on to move the ball out to midfield. The rest is A&M lore, and while the Aggies have indeed lost three of five at home, they’ve yet to lose an SEC game on the road (4-0).
Ole Miss is the only ‘last-minute’ comeback on Manziel’s resume, and you’d better believe the Rebs will be out to cause the Maroon some heavy bleeding for that 30-27 loss. Their brilliant backs and receivers along with a beautifully composed scheme will be a handful for the A&M defense.
Following the game against the Rebels, the Louisiana Tech contest featured almost 1,300 yards and a final score of 59-57. Manziel threw for 396 yards and ran for 181 as Texas A&M ended Louisiana Tech’s 12-game regular-season winning streak. The Aggies held leads of 27-0 and 39-16 (at halftime) before the Bulldogs all came almost the way back. A&M was a 10-point favorite when this one kicked off.
I’m thinking Floyd Mayweather did not have $200K wagered on this game and if he did, he wasn’t tweeting about it. Perhaps he went the first half route as he did with SMU last week, but we’ll never know. One thing’s for sure; the
“players” in the desert love Johnny Manziel.
And who did the Aggies beat at home 58-10 before heading to Oxford last season? That’s right; the Arkansas Razorbacks. Last year, the Aggies rampaged for 714 yards at home against the hapless Hogs in the season’s fourth game. The 2012 and 2013 teams look very familiar at this point, although somewhat weaker defensively this year.
Texas A&M heads to Arkansas this Saturday in an eerily similar position
as the team that arrived in Oxford last season – a touchdown favorite and once-beaten at home. We’ve seen what can happen. While Alabama refused to call A&M a “revenge” game a couple of weeks ago, there’s little doubt the Razorbacks will be much less reticent to indeed call a spade a spade.
They should be mentally prepared for the chase, particularly after blowing a big lead at Rutgers over the weekend and being totally embarrassed last year in College Station. There were even locals talking about leaving the SEC after that one. This new Arkansas coaching staff will soon find out what kind of character this team has. It is a pivotal game in the Razorbacks’ season.
Like Arkansas this season, Ole Miss had lost the preceding game before
playing the Aggies last year. The Rebels’ loss, however, was at Alabama, one they entered as a 31-point underdog. They did eventually lose, 33-14, but bounced back strongly against the Ags. It remains to be seen how the Razorbacks will respond from last week’s loss, but one can imagine their coaches are emphasizing what a win over A&M could mean.
It is important for the Aggies to understand they can’t just mail in these next two games – in spite of the fact that Johnny Manziel is playing better than ever. They must keep in mind that although Coach Sumlin’s winning road streak remains intact from 2011, continuing from when he was at the University of Houston, strange things do happen on the road.
It is precisely for this reason coaches try to convey another important lesson to their players: In football, as in life, it’s often when things look the rosiest that the bottom suddenly falls out. This should be this week’s primary focus for the Aggies.
Our Louisiana Hall of Fame coach, Shannon Suarez, would tell us every day, “It ain’t far from the penthouse to the outhouse.” As a countrified sports truism, it stands alone. It makes itself visible all the time, doesn’t it, Tiger?
Well, now here’s Johnny! His horse just got spooked out from underneath him, and in the minds of millions today, he’s either flat on his backside or dangling from some live oak tree. The athletic director just saw the dark side of the Moon and one can be sure it’s never seen a Tide.
[TWEET TWEET: Johnny Manziel 'can't wait to leave College Station']
Sure, it may have been self-inflicted, but Johnny is certainly not the first to wage war on a defenseless city without warning. As far back as when the Vietnam War was ending, hundreds of us Aggie footballers did exactly the same thing in this small Texas town of College Station. Fortunately for us, it was only our parents who were on the other end of the wall phone listening to our descriptions of massive discomfort.
Nowadays, the wall phone and long-distance toll calls have transformed into clicks on a little smart phone; harmless little peckings as texts go — but real giant killers as tweets go. One must know the difference. Text or tweet. Tweet or text. One means letting off a little steam to those who are closest to you, while the other is the F-Bomb dropped right in the middle of Town Square.
The Rule of Thumb here is to text only your girl or best bud in times of angst. That’s not
reckless. But, you see, Johnny lives like he plays—on the edge. That’s just the way it is with athletes. But if you do tweet criticism of the town in which you currently live, you may find out where the love truly lies. Maybe less followers and more haters is a good thing. And based on the exit polls I’ve been trolling, it appears that maybe 10% are justifying his statement(s), as best they can.
And as great of an athlete as this young college student is, it just doesn’t seem to matter in the eyes of the voters. Many of these haters seem ready to nail him to the cross, put his wrapped body in a canoe, and send him down the Brazos River somewhere.
But the truth is, as I heard on sports radio this morning, nobody cares much about anything but winning. They seem to be saying, “If you’d just oblige us by keeping your mouth shut and playing football from now on, you’re free to go at any time. Oh, but one more thing–be sure and bring us the big BCS trophy before you point your Beemer or Mercedes to the high country.”
It is this that makes me uncomfortable. It’s not his tweet. Normally the only athletes who stay in College Station are those who grew up in College Station. I can count on two fingers the number of former football players who still live here who aren’t working in some capacity for the university. It’s common knowledge. You could say the same thing about the entire student body. For most Aggies, it’s in and out with visitation rights.
Johnny just voiced what everyone knows, and the people screaming on the Aggie forums will themselves be gone within a couple of years, or already are. The town is centrally located between some pretty good cities, which is its draw. It’s small enough that you can stay out of trouble, as the recruiters like to say. Back in the day we sometimes traveled 30 miles to Sam Houston State in Huntsville for a night out.
Frustration is a human trait and everyone handles theirs differently. He has a right to his opinion and a right to voice it, and with it, the right to turn everything off and avoid those who are calling for his head. With everything else going on, who knows how short his future here may be? It’s the archaic NCAA rules that are partly to blame, disallowing the players to profit on any endorsements that may be available to them as Olympians can.
To me, it’s important to remember that Johnny has not broken the Aggie Code of
Honor in any way, shape, or form. This outpouring of negativity from his own classmates and “former students” certainly can’t be inspiring the young man to “fight for Maroon and White.”
As a guy who has been labeled both “messiah” and “pariah” in his years as the A&M quarterback, I promise the transformation is a difficult one to get a handle on. Johnny’s tweet could be the early echoes of a super-hero desperately wanting to change into his awaiting dynamic attire being held by a smiling general manager.
In the meantime, Johnny will probably allow only his closest friends to be near him, and he will continue to work to have the greatest season of any college quarterback in history.
It’s Johnny against the world now. He has you right where he wants you. In the eyes of a supreme gladiator, this is exactly the mindset Johnny needs. We all just got cut off, gang. I’d be surprised to see him grant a single interview until the end of next season. He has laid out his game plan, and it doesn’t include any know-it-all, loud-mouthed onlookers. You can’t win with negative people in your way – or by your side.
In the end, Johnny’s coach, personnel, offensive system and, oh, the quickest reflexes this side of a rattlesnake, will allow him to accomplish heroic things. With these tools he can become the greatest there ever was, and then say, “See ya.”
Good for you, Johnny. The NFL can’t wait to have you as part of its family.
Johnny Manziel's marketing and NFL potential; Golden shoes for a golden parachute? (Over 8,000 reads!)
I have to tell ya, seeing my man Johnny Manziel down there in Cajun Country during the Super Bowl did this ol’ boy good. Hobnobbing with the Duck Dynasty guys and my personal fave, Justin Timberlake, it just doesn’t get any better than this. As you may know by now, I was born and raised in Louisiana and committed to the LSU Tigers before turning Aggie – much to my Mom’s chagrin, God rest her soul.
My Dad and I did a lot of duck hunting together so when I saw the picture of Johnny and his “Pops” with a limit of ducks after a hunt in Arkansas, well, that was pretty cool too. My Dad and grandparents were from Green Forest, Arkansas. I’m assuming the NCAA checked to make sure it was Mr. Manziel who paid for Johnny’s out-of-state hunting license, and not some over-zealous owner of the, ahem, Dallas Cowboys.
Get on outta here, you NFL scoundrels!
They’re starting to act like the “Dude Perfect” throws Johnny made through the net from the top of the stadium were rather impressive. Johnny likes hitting the Net. What’s even more impressive is that Johnny called his shot and simply whirled and threw. I mean, his eyes barely had time to find the target before the ball was out of his hand. Do you know how SMALL that window was? You don’t teach that, no sir.
No wonder Philadelphia hired the only college coach in Chip Kelly who, for a while there, was the lone guy in the country who recognized the value in Johnny Kerrville. Hold your horses there, pahtnahs.
Okay, all in good fun, right? Next we have Internet-gate, an “admission” volunteered by the star quarterback regarding his online status this semester at A&M. You see, he’s not actually taking any classes that require his presence in a brick and mortar building, sort of like taking tests with E-trade and Ameritrade without the pitfalls or windfalls. Online courses are nothing new. My favorite prof at A&M told me in ’08 that online courses were the next big thing. He told me he was worried about the profession of Professoring. I get it.
My daughter spent a year online and doing clinicals to get her Nursing license after getting her college degree in Spanish and Creative Writing. It took hard work and was tremendously challenging, but she achieved her goal and is now a Cardiac ICU Nurse — a rather important job. So I don’t fret when I see young people like Johnny taking courses online. It’s not cheating or slacking or any of these other characterizations going around. In Johnny’s case, it’s simply called “focus.” If you need to go receive the Davey O’Brien Award one week or head out to California the next to get your form back in line to throw those delicious heat-seeking spirals of his, it’s called preparing for your future
while taking care of business.
Now, but with an Eye on the Future! That’s the motto.
He’ll be back in the classrooms in the fall anyway. There is only a handful or so of online courses available in his Sports Management major.
You’ve probably noticed by now that Johnny is pretty darned difficult to trap in any situation.
When the A&M athletic director called Johnny’s folks into his office for a little chat soon after he’d received the nation’s top door prize, they were probably thinking, ‘That’s fine, sir. You won’t have to worry about us too much longer’.
[Related: Manziel told reporters that he checks with the Compliance
Office every time he does something]
I recall being asked by a local car dealership to do a commercial for them before my final season. When I asked around, I was told I couldn’t be compensated for anything while I still had eligibility. I couldn’t even afford a haircut in those days so this was pretty disappointing. When I went back to the dealership and told them a paid endorsement would cost me my eligibility, they said, “Well, David, we weren’t actually going to pay you anything!” Gee, thanks.
I say this to preface the fact that Johnny’s parents were smart enough and had enough foresight to determine that others would quickly try to make a buck off their son even before he hoisted the Heisman, while the quarterback himself would go penniless. That’s rather tough to swallow in this day and age so they created a company and hired an attorney to protect Johnny’s interests from now ‘til eternity. This act alone should be honored by the Better Business Bureau somehow since it’s the first business model of its kind. It’s even more wonderful now that the NCAA has proclaimed “Winner Take All” for JMAN2 in the event there actually are any royalties/fines/payolas forthcoming. Paybacks are Hell, people!
I was the first player to wear the No. 8 jersey at A&M in 45 years when I became the starting quarterback as a true, 17 year-old freshman. The number had last been worn in 1927 by the nation’s leading scorer, Joel Hunt. It was truly an honor for me to be wearing such a famous guy’s number, although in truth I asked for it in Archie Manning’s memory, and not Joel Hunt’s. I mean, I was from Louisiana.
Anyway, suddenly there were No. 8 jerseys in every bookstore, sporting goods store and clothing store in Texas. Maroon “Welcome to Aggieland” floor mats made of cloth were sold locally with my image — a lefty QB wearing the No. 8 sewn on them in white – during my freshman year.
Joel Hunt had been gone for almost half a century so, although it may sound cocky, I had reason to believe he wasn’t the driving force behind the sales.
All-America kicker Tony Franklin, who was just named to the 2013 College Football Hall of Fame ballot, donned No. 1 a couple of years later and the same thing happened with his. The only other player to line up wearing this jersey was our split end, Carl Roaches, but at this point everyone who was buying No. 1 knew exactly whose jersey they were sporting.
I sell Aggie t-shirts by the sea shore and I’ve paid royalties to Texas A&M for every last one of them. None involve Johnny, although I do have one that says, “The Ag 1-2 Punch.” I created this slogan before Johnny ever visited A&M, and now it just so happens that our top running back is No. 1 and we all know what number Johnny is, and together they truly are quite the 1-2 punch. But I don’t think they’ll come after me for it. Sometimes things are fortuitous and it’s already licensed and approved by the University. Lucky me.
The point is, I can’t remember who the last player was to wear No. 2 in Aggieland. I just can’t, but I’m seeing Maroon and White No. 2 jerseys everywhere I go. During my high school years there was a popular song titled, “It’s a Rip-off.” This arrangement sort of is, too. We all know NUMBERS can’t be trademarked in any color, but really, name me another Number 2.
No, Tom Clements doesn’t count. (See Joel Hunt)
And how many folks would lose their shirts (pun intended) if Johnny decided to go with Number 3 next season in honor of transferred teammate Jameill Showers? Ouch. That could hurt some pocketbooks.
From what I’m seeing, the NCAA has the universities and their fans in a bind, but we may have a player here who just made the NCAA even more obsolete. Concessions must be made to the players, or the college fans who pay the bills will continue to get ramrodded sooner than later. It’s already rather ridiculous for college basketball fans in the way players now zoom in and zoom out. Just ask Kentucky how well their new crop of freshmen are faring in Lexington these days.
While guys like me felt a sense of pride seeing their jerseys hanging on racks in stores, today’s player sees dollar signs.
We don’t want to lose Johnny Manziel after this coming season. Isn’t there anything that can be done? Can’t the NCAA allow the schools the power to license their players’ identities (brands) just as they do their own, and then pay the players a percentage? Most royalties are in the 8-percent range of the goods’ invoice prices, so how about a split? Wouldn’t that be fair, NCAA?
What if a poor guy gets in Johnny’s shoes and his family can’t afford to start an entire company the way the Manziels did? What happens when the family’s attorney adds “Agent” to his or her repertoire? It seems there’s a tremendous amount of money for our schools and players being left on the table and some risky business in off-campus handshakes.
Philadelphia? San Diego? Dallas? Really? Thank goodness we’ve got that insurance policy handled. That’s simply a no-brainer. After suffering a broken neck myself without any insurance coverages whatsoever, trust me, they can come in handy. It’s hard to pay the medical bills at 13-percent on all those credit cards it took to get it fused back together. Injuries definitely happen in sports and we must be prepared. Good strategerations right there.
Johnny was wearing gold football cleats in Saturday’s first practice of the spring. We wore gold cleats in high school in our games. Our uniforms and our offense were way ahead of their time, and so is the Rocket Man. His foundation is being built on solid rock and whatever the shoes represent or signify, I can only surmise they’re being worn for a reason other than being the perfect match for his feet. Perhaps a golden parachute?
Yeah, it’s gotta be the shoes. They top off the perfect ensemble.
Good for you, Johnny Football. Keep the groundbreaking going. Your brothers and sisters-in-arms are counting on you. And don’t forget, we’re adding 30,000 more seats just for you here in Aggieland. Gig ‘em!
My 90 year-old Aggies landlord, Henry Hilton, stopped by the other day after returning from a vacation in Italy. Sometimes he likes to come by and chew the
fat, though he’s not getting around as well as he did five years ago when we first met here in College Station. Back then, my youngest girl had just transferred to A&M from Belmont University in Nashville where she’d attended several semesters to study music. As Texas’ 5A Soprano One First Chair (or State Champ, as I call her), she felt Belmont was her best choice to continue her music studies after considering Berklee in Boston and NYU. We’d vacationed in Nashville earlier in hers’ and her sister’s childhoods and the college seemed familiar and down-home to her Mom and me.
She had never visited A&M, with the exception of spending a week at a basketball camp one summer during her junior high years. The thing was, in all those years of raising her and her sister and working most weekends myself, I’d never had the opportunity to bring our family to an A&M football game.
My girls were basketball players and involved in church and other social activities, and not surprisingly, weren’t football fans. My coaching days were long over and other than attending an occasional high school game, I was pretty much on my own in the Man Cave. They even called it “The Cave” back then. How funny; I’m thinking a lady came up with the term.
I decided one weekend to fly her in from Nashville and we drove into College Station for a game. When I was arranging for tickets, I was told over the phone the seats were located three rows from the top in the end zone, so I asked for seats at the very top, which I received. I mean, if you’re that close already, why not go all the way? Well, little did I know, she fell in love with Texas A&M — its yell leaders and student section, the hand signals they’d give to alert the crowd of the next yell, the band and the spirit. She even started studying the program to decipher what all was coming up next. I sort of beamed.
The game was great too. We fell behind Oklahoma State but came back and beat the Cowboys for what may turn out to be the last time in our school’s history. My daughter transferred into Aggieland and received a double degree in Psychology and Sociology, and for now has her singing career on hold. Named after Carly Simon, I figure she’ll be a star once she’s ready to roll. After my Longhorn lady and I split up after our 25-year contract expired, I decided I’d move back to College Station and catch up on some games, some Aggie camaraderie and be around if my new Aggie needed anything.
While driving through a neighborhood that sits pretty close to the campus, I saw a “For Rent” sign and a truck sitting in the gravel driveway. Stopping and getting out, I peered into a window where a gentleman was busy with some repairs. I yelled, “You’re working too hard in there!” He looked up and smiled, and I said, “Can I come in?”
We introduced ourselves and he asked me if I was David Walker, the quarterback, to which I responded, “Yes, sir.” He told me his wife had bought their two sons both mine and kicker Tony Franklin’s jerseys back when they were just kids. This was pretty cool. I asked him what the ‘going rate’ was on the little 2-bedroom house and he told me. I’d driven by this same house a thousand times when I was in college, so it already felt a little like home to me. I’d even been in a bad wreck in front of it when a guy U-turned on me from the right lane just after sunset one evening.
Little did I know I’d be in another accident a couple of years later that would break my neck. It would be in this house I would type my memoirs two-fingered (it’s how I roll), unknowingly suffering from a cervical fracture and two complete dislocations.
I said, “Deal,” and Mr. Hilton gave me his agent’s business card and said she’d get me ready to roll. While apartments were requiring proof of employment, this gentleman never asked for any; it was an Aggie deal. There once was a time when a handshake in Aggieland was all one needed and jobs were easy to find.
My landlord is a former Marine who was a civil engineer for the Military for many years, most of them spent overseas or in South America. I asked him what he thought of Johnny Manziel and the season we’d just had. He first told me about a game in 1940 when Texas A&M was about to repeat as national champions, having won it all in 1939. The last game of the season in ’40 was in Austin against our former bitter rival, the University of Texas. Tickets, he said, were $1.10 and many of the boys couldn’t get inside the stadium because they didn’t have the money. Security had a pretty good eye on all the gates and fences, but a delivery truck pulled up and when the gate opened, a few of them were able to dash in and scatter.
Hey, you had to make do in those days.
Apparently it was a heartbreaking loss, and he hitch-hiked back to a little town called Hearne with a couple of well-to-do, very happy Texas grads after the game. Hearne was still about 30 miles out, so he hitch-hiked the rest of the way with some fellow Ags who were coming back from the game.
Seventy-two years later, he still has trouble talking about that night.
He quickly brightened though, changed his tone and looked me in the eyes and said, “Dave, this season was the best I can remember since 1939.” How could anyone have enjoyed it more than a 90 year-old Aggie, and our quarterback? There’s surely others who came close but after observing this gentleman’s demeanor, I’m satisfied none surpassed him.
He was wearing a company jacket that I noticed had the name of Ennis, Texas on it. He told me the story about how he’d received it from one of the city contractors once when he was on a job there. I mentioned that our quarterback had just gotten himself a speeding ticket in Ennis and the judge, a Baylor grad (don’t mess with Texas football!) was claiming they’d caught the Joker, or somebody just as notorious, for excessive use of acceleration in their quaint little speed-trap town. The judge added that college defenses couldn’t catch Johnny but their police department sure had … wait, make that, “allegedly.”
Mr. Hilton (yes, I call him Mister Hilton) just laughed. All the stories the media guys and gals have passed judgment on and the little “meeting” our athletic director from A&M had with Johnny’s parents are all laughable matters in real-time. Even Johnny said a week later that neither his parents nor the A.D. had informed him of the details of any such discussion. He only knew what the A.D. had quoted to the papers. This tells me that Johnny’s parents know which apple carts to topple, and which not to. Apparently this little sit-down didn’t amount to the big ol’ blip on the radar screen the A.D. had hoped for.
After all, since my playing days began during the modern era of football at A&M (the Vietnam War ended my Freshman year, coeds were on campus, freshmen were playing real football and the black athletes were coming on board), I’ve got to agree with my landlord. When has any A&M quarterback (Heisman winner or not) been able to enjoy a season AND a season finale like we had this year?
At Texas A&M, great seasons have uncannily been spoiled by losing the ensuing bowl game or being ineligible in the first place. This is why 1976 (10-2 record, ranked 7th nationally with a season-ending 7-game winning streak) and 2012 (11-2, ranked fifth nationally with a season-ending 6-game winning streak) are about as close to reasons for genuine revelry this school has had heading into the off-season.
Jackie Sherrill’s Cotton Bowl-winning season of 1985 certainly ranks in the top 3 for us in the modern era as a ‘body of work with a finish’.
Kevin Murray was exceptional during this 10-2 season and also in beating Auburn and Heisman winner, Bo Jackson.
1987 was also strong but the team was declared ineligible the following spring for the upcoming ’88 season, which certainly erased some luster. Otherwise we have to go back to 1956 to run down another No. 5 team.
Losing season finales is no way to start an off-season. Rarely does a team lose its last game and come back to win the national championship the following season. (Reason for Revelry No. 28). It’s time to celebrate a little and act like we’ve been here before.
Here’s another reason to celebrate. A recent study says Johnny’s Heisman has brought in an estimated 37 million dollars in free exposure. Johnny’s share is zero, or at best, deferred. Self-promotion is the number one key to successful ventures later in life — that time period when the NCAA doesn’t have its stranglehold on you. (Right or Wrong, only TMZ knows for sure.)
The more Johnny hits the spotlight the greater his opportunities will be for endorsements once his college career is done. Responsibilities aside, Johnny has to get out there, preferably with Miss Savage on one arm. Hey, Johnny is no Tebow, and nobody expects or truly wants him to be. I support Johnny in every public endeavor because, as much as everyone seems to believe he’s a kid who doesn’t know any better yet, I would advise you against challenging him in a game of Chess, pool , Monopoly or especially poker. You just might get your butt beat while he’s laughing all the way to the bank.
I was the Conference Freshman of the Year and played the entire season at 17 years of age, and was born in December like Johnny. I’ve still never seen New York City, although I have been to Dallas (to watch Texas play the U and take a girlfriend to try out for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders) and I’ve even made it to a few NBA basketball games in my lifetime. What’s up with Jack Nicholson, anyway? No Lakers seats? Of course, they’re not having a particularly stellar season.
Regardless, when Old School meets New School, there’s no contest.
Enjoy Johnny Heisman while you can. Obviously he is a dreamer with a huge imagination. His visualization skills are right on par with his peripheral ones. He’ll try to get it right but if it’s not there, he will improvise. That’s what makes him unpredictable; that’s what makes him Johnny. And he’s pretty good at the laser shot, balcony shot, long ball and longer ball, too. (See Dude Perfect)
[Check it out >> Johnny Football pulls off some unreal trick shots with Dude Perfect]
I’ve been saying this since I knighted him the No. 1 quarterback in A&M’s history following just the second game of his career in a throwback ’70s Aggie uniform. I had to go back and study the replay as a coach would several times before I wrote that week’s article.
Here’s the deal: with the success this Spread offense is having in the NFL, as soon as Johnny gets proficient with the “Zone Read” (referred to in the NFL as the “Zone Option,” probably for elitist reasons) suitors will come calling. You’ve got RG3 in Washington (are you kidding me?? Shanahan’s running it???), that 5-foot-11 Russell Wilson kid in Seattle (USC’s former coach runs that outfit, who, by the way, lost a national championship to Vince Young’s spread offense at Texas) and Jim Harbaugh, just a couple of years removed from Stanford where he ran a standard Pro set, is now in the Super Bowl with Zone Read Extraordinaire, Colin Kaepernick, after a mid-season promotion and a distinct change in offensive direction.
The next news out of the NFL was that the Oregon Ducks’ coach, his team a shoe-in for preseason Top 3 honors, decided to change funky uniforms yet again and became an Eagle — as in, Philadelphia. Guess what offense he runs.
Johnny Manziel has tweeted previously while watching Drew Brees hit throw after throw that Drew is proof-positive that 72 inches of height can easily get the job done in the NFL. Unfortunately for me, not many folks believed this in the late ’70s, especially about guys in the 71-inch category running Wishbones. They do now.
And while Kaepernick is not short of stature, he has a much smaller man’s wheels. Just ask the Falcons.
The clincher is, just like Drew Brees, Johnny only had a few colleges contact him about coming to play football for them. Drew came back from a tough knee injury his junior year in high school to lead Austin’s Westlake High to the 5A championship, and still, not a peep was heard from the gods of Texas football. He even had an uncle who was a tremendous option quarterback at Texas named Marty Akins. Drew wasn’t even recruited as a maybe-defensive back there. He eventually went to Purdue and shattered every passing record and won a ton of games. By gosh, he’s also won the Super Bowl.
Johnny, while under the same recruiting duress as non-college prospect Drew was — sans the knee surgery — verbally committed to go play for powerhouse Oregon, with the same coach who now heads up the Eagles organization. This was the only guy in America, besides Sherman at A&M and Coach Sumlin who was still at Houston, who believed in Johnny enough after his junior year to offer him a scholarship.
Do you think Johnny might be on Philly’s radar, especially with Michael Vick on yet another downswing? I do.
I’d say Johnny is the ultimate juker and certainly won’t be anybody’s Joker, at least not for long. He’s already heard an A&M rep telling ESPN that the Texas A&M brand is bigger than Johnny Manziel. His parents have been called into the principal’s office with what seems to be a reprimand/warning, and the NCAA has its eyes on his every move via Twitter, Facebook, TMZ, Vegas and the normal scumbags out there with smart phones. Meanwhile, Johnny is back attending to his studies, doing some light-hearted singing occasionally with that Clint Black smile of his, giving interviews at the halftimes of basketball games and signing anything put in front of him. Just stay grounded, Johnny. 37 million, huh?
He may be a very wealthy young man in just a little over a year from now. It almost makes you wish Mike Sherman would’ve had reason to see if Johnny could have saved his job as a true freshman, just to have seen him play another year. Our best bet may be to continue to shun the Zone Read (Option) in our offensive attack.
At any rate, Johnny Manziel will be to Philly — or anyone else moving up in the draft order — what Joe Willie Namath was to New York and the Jets: their Savior. Hey, how have Tebow and Sanchez been doing lately?
I just hope the Senior Bowl players were right when they voted the Aggies next season’s National Champions. Mr. Hilton would enjoy that.
This hand, guys, the Juker is wild.
The official list of freshman quarterbacks who have started football games for Texas A&M in the modern era now numbers 12 — obviously an appropriate number for rabid Texas A&M followers — with Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel topping it off in the most dynamic of fashions. Once again my long-time personal motto, The 12th Shall Be First, has prominently come into play in Aggieland. There’s no question that Johnny Manziel is 112% Pure Aggie, and that’s no brag.
After the bowls were picked and the individual awards were announced, I became interested in discovering how many of our “Early Risers” had completed their freshman seasons with starting nods in a bowl game. Whether they had started the full season or only a game was irrelevant, as I was only interested in the end game. It’s how I roll.
While I am the first and youngest of the true
freshmen in this group of former Aggie QBs, I also included those who’d had a previous season of practice squad duty, a full academic school year and an official spring training under their belts before stepping into their starting offensive huddles in their second seasons on campus – yes, the individuals we now call “Redshirt” freshmen.
Because of Johnny Manziel there is no longer an asterisk beside the classification. Either type of “freshman” designation bears the same weight when awards are being handed out, and while not technically identical, we gladly push technicalities aside in accordance with the selections of the nationwide voters. Go freshmen, whichever you are!
As I’ve stated before — and Bucky Richardson and I have both experienced this — you don’t realize what “redshirting” means until everyone in your class is suddenly gone and you’re the only one still playing football. You lose major friends and teammates in this transition. It can be difficult. This I refer to as a player’s second senior season, because it’s exactly how it feels. You’re now the grizzled old veteran on the squad. With it comes one more shot and a truly great opportunity, provided you don’t skip out with your sidekicks and go Pro.
Entering our forty-first season after freshmen had become eligible for varsity sports in 1972, only three freshman quarterbacks had started for the Aggies in bowl games. That’s right; three. I was eliminated quickly from inclusion on this “list for the ages” as my ’73 team fell a game short of bowl eligibility. In our next-to-last game while holding five victories versus four defeats, we lost at Rice as time expired with our offense inside their five yard line. We then lost to Number 1 Texas on Kyle Field in our finale. This was the
only loss I had as an Aggie starter at home until my final season in 1977.
Another game which we should have won up in Fayetteville would have also done the trick, but we had no two-minute offense. We were probably the only team in college football history that didn’t have a two minute offense — but don’t get me started.
After the ’77 regular season ended, I watched Mike Mosley become the very first freshman quarterback to ever start a bowl game for the Texas Aggies. Perhaps if you dig deeper, Mike may be the first freshman from any school to start at quarterback in a bowl game. It was quite exciting and the place was packed. Mike was a true freshman who had collected a previous start earlier in the season and beaten TCU at Amon Carter Stadium. Amon Carter, coincidentally, was the very same stadium where I had received my first start as a freshman four seasons earlier at age 17. I might add, Mike is the only
starting quarterback A&M has ever had who had Johnny Manziel type speed.
The Monday prior to the TCU game my senior year I requested a week-long breather to heal up several body parts to prepare for a do-or-die battle the following weekend against Earl Campbell and the Number 1 Longhorns. My wish was granted because TCU was no threat this particular season, and I stood and cheered and high-fived Mike throughout the game. It seemed poetic at the time that Mike had gotten his first start in the same arena I had. The only difference was we were a struggling football team back in ’73, while Mike was handed the keys to a Ferrari and a triple option scheme like none other. Fullback George Woodard still holds the A&M record for most points scored in a bowl game with the 20 he scored against Florida in the Sun Bowl the previous season. George, Mike and the guys romped to a 52-23 victory and set an all-time Aggie single-game rushing record of 606 yards.
Mike did wonderfully in the Bluebonnet Bowl, too. Southern California was ranked 20th and the Aggies were No. 17 coming in, having fallen from No. 4 earlier in the season after a bitter loss in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
I personally decided to sit out the Bluebonnet Bowl, explaining to offensive coordinator Tom Wilson beforehand that I’d played my last game for head coach Emory Bellard and was only going for the party. I was later voted team captain, with the announcement made the day before we left for Houston. It was the second such honor of my A&M career.
Looking back at this 2012 season, I think it’s a shame the A&M team captains were chosen prior to the season. I feel very confident Johnny’s name would now be engraved on the new plaque about to be hung in the Bright Athletic Complex along with ours. He is the Captain and I say, “Keep the hardware coming.
Back to the game, Mike had us on top 14-0 in the old Astrodome before the roof caved in (no, not literally). USC stormed back for a 47-28 win, but Mike came within two yards of the all-time single game rushing record held by an A&M quarterback. In fact, Mike’s 180 yards rushing now rank third in A&M history behind Johnny Manziel’s 181 and my 182. Yeah, it was that close. Twitter was blowing up about Johnny’s big rushing night against La. Tech in a wild game, but this ol’ Aggie QB still holds that 35 year-old record and has a news clipping to prove it. A record-saving kneel down at the end of the game saved my bacon.
Soon after taking a picture with me at the reception for the team when they got home after beating Alabama, a young man named David Harris predicted, “Not for long, Hoss.” This would be correct. That single-game rushing record could go down in Arlington, for all I know. Mike had the jets; I had some necessary Wishbone operator’s quickness; but, Johnny has it all, plus eyes in the back of his head.
The second freshman quarterback to start a bowl game was Baton Rouge’s Bucky Richardson ten years later. Like me, Bucky got his first start in the sixth game of his first season on the A&M campus, and led the Aggies to the 1988 Cotton Bowl. Bucky took over in ’87 for fellow freshman Lance Pavlas after entering in relief against Southern Miss and the magical Brett Favre.
In the Cotton Bowl on January 1, 1988, the Aggies blitzed Heisman winner Tim Brown and Notre Dame 35-10 in the first meeting ever between the two schools. Bucky was named the game’s outstanding offensive player after rushing for 96 yards and two scores, and went on to a fabled career for the Aggies. Only three freshmen have ever received player of the game honors in the history of the Cotton Bowl, and Bucky remains the only Aggie recipient.
The only other freshman quarterback to start in a bowl game eventually surpassed me, Kevin Murray and Bucky Richardson to become the winningest quarterback in A&M history. Corey Pullig, a youngster from Deer Park, Texas, took over for A&M’s other lefthander, Jeff Granger (concussion), late in the 1992 season and never looked back, winning the final four games of the regular season.
Once again the Aggies faced Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl but didn’t fare nearly as well as Bucky’s bunch had, dropping the contest to the fifth-ranked Irish, 28-3. The Aggies gained only 165 yards of total offense and managed just 11 first downs, while Notre Dame compiled 439 yards and 28 first downs. Corey completed 7 of his 18 passes for 87 yards, respectively. This game spoiled what could have been a perfect 13-0 season for the third-ranked Aggies, who finished the year in the final polls at Number 7.
All told, twenty
years have now rolled by since an Aggie freshman QB has taken the first snap in a bowl game. In forty-plus years of football, Bucky Richardson still owns the only freshman-led bowl victory. Corey Pullig, A&M’s all-time leader with 33 career wins, precedes the man presumably destined to eclipse his record in the form of Johnny Manziel. If the world doesn’t end on my older sister’s birthday, both will have begun their bowl careers in the Cotton Bowl, albeit at different locations, and for the third straight time an Aggie freshman quarterback’s first bowl appearance will be in the Cotton Bowl.
This time around though, the game isn’t our ‘reward’ for winning the Southwest Conference championship, and we’ve got the Sooners instead of the Irish. I think we’d have preferred to have Notre Dame in the BCS title game on January 7, and with just a little luck against LSU, perhaps we would have.
This is the eleventh season a freshman quarterback has started at least one game and only the fourth time in those years that we’ve earned a bowl bid. Obviously we beat almost all the odds this season and have come far, Pilgrims.
(Also, please be on the lookout for my new “Kliff Who?” t-shirts. They’ll soon be all the rage.)
Will Johnny become only the second freshman QB to win a bowl game for A&M? That’s his number, so I expect him to do so. As I headlined earlier in the season, it’s now Cool to be Number 2.
Now, let’s get those Sooners! We have a great chance of heading into next season with the longest winning streak in the country. After losing 9 of our last 10 season finales, 14 out of 17, 16 of 20 and 19 of our last 25, we desperately need to take the high road in this one. We need to finish with a flurry and send all the demons in the opposite direction, once and for all. We cannot let this wonderful thing called momentum slip away, particularly against one of the smuggest college football coaches around.
Beating TCU for the 24th straight time in the Galleryfurniture.com Bowl in 2001 seems like a long time ago, but believe it or not, it’s the last time A&M has finished a season on a winning note since last year’s win in Houston over Northwestern. In my five seasons with what was called A&M’s “Great Resurgence” under Bellard, we lost our final game four of those five seasons. None were even close. This is the dreaded setback that leaves a bad taste in your mouth for months. Even Sherman thought he’d finally turned the tanks around before LSU pulled the plug on the 2010 season in our last Cotton Bowl. We all remember the recurring theme in 2011 that LSU initiated, and it wasn’t pretty.
We’re far from done though, with a whole lot of proving still left to do. Texas A&M has run the table only once in its history after losing is first two conference games, and that was our 10-2 Sun Bowl team in ’76.
Meanwhile, as Old School meets New School, my personal congratulations go out to Stun Gun QB, Johnny Manziel, the young man I knighted as “the best there’s ever been” following the SMU game. Thanks for proving me correct, young fellow. Gig ‘em, and like the rest of us Aggielanders, I thoroughly enjoyed your guest appearance on Jay Leno’s show. The Top Ten was pretty good, too. Best of luck to you in your career.
What kind of gum do you chew, by the way?
For the record, these are your freshman Aggie QBs since 1972, as listed by someone on the Internet: David Walker, 1973; Mike Mosley, 1977; Gary Kubiak, 1979; Kevin Murray, 1983; Craig Stump, 1984; Lance Pavlas and Bucky Richardson, 1987; Jeff Granger, 1991; Corey Pullig, 1992; Reggie McNeal, 2002; Stephen McGee, 2005; Johnny Manziel, 2012.
The four winningest quarterbacks in A&M history are all from this list: Corey Pullig – 33; David Walker and Kevin Murray – 25; Bucky Richardson – 24; and Johnny Heisman Manziel – 53?
Wait, that’s five…it can happen.