Thursday, May 9, 2013

The "Legend" of "Johnny Football" ... Something like a Phenomenon

College Football has had it's share of headline grabbing, must see players throughout the decades.
Few have taken the sport by storm like Jonathan Paul Manziel (-aka- "Johnny Football"). There are a few elements to this story that make it extraordinary and I'll shre them throughout this write up. It's not like Manziel wasn't a highly recruited QB coming out of Tivy High School (in Texas) as he was the only Quarterback in the country named as a Parade All-American his senior year. Despite Texas A&M making the highly publicized move from the BIG 12 to the SEC, Manziel's epic freshman campaign got off to a relatively quiet start. Many college football analysts and experts were expecting the Aggies to bring up the rear in their 1st season in the very competitive SEC West division. Head Coach Kevin Sumlin and his star QB would have none of it. Manziel and the Aggies would lose a tough home contest to the Florida Gators (20-17) before running off 5 straight wins. The march to legendary status began for Manziel in a contest against Arkansas that saw him break a 43 year old record (held by Archie Manning 540 total yards) for total offense in a game (557 total yards). This performance garnered some attention but Manziel outdid this very performance 2 games later against (#24 at the time) Louisiana Tech (with 576 total yards) making him the FIRST player in SEC history with 2 games of +500 total yards in the SAME season. The Aggies lost another close SEC home game to perennial powerhouse LSU (#6 at the time) to halt their 5 game win streak but respect was being earned from their SEC counterparts.This was just the start for Manziel as him and the Aggies took the SEC and College Football by storm.
    The Aggies and their star QB in the making shook off their 2nd tough Conference loss at home by going to Auburn and absolutely embarrassing the Tigers by a score of 63-21. Manziel's performance of 3 TD passes and 2 rushing TDs (mostly in the 1st half) pushed him square in the middle of the College Football radar and the legend of "Johnny Football" was born. The Heisman talk grew louder and louder as the then (7-2) Aggies were poised for a match up in Tuscaloosa versus the All-Everything Alabama Crimson Tide. As in every other "big game" played in, up to this point, Manziel was as good as advertised counting for 345 of his team's 418 yards of offense (including 2 TDs through the air) in a 29-24 upset over the Defending Champs. The Aggies would win out the rest of the way and finished the season with an (11-2) record including a 2nd place finish in the SEC West (6-2). "Johnny Football" would become the 1st Freshman in SEC History to pass for more than 3,000 yards and rush for more than 1,000 yards in the same season (setting the Freshman QB rushing record with 1,410). He also broke Cam Newton's record for Total yards of offense in a season (in 2 fewer games) with 5,116. The QB from Tyler, Tx. didn't stop there also becoming just the 4th player ever to throw for 20 or more TDs and rush for 20 or more TDs in the same season. These outstanding feats led to Manziel being the first ever Freshman to win both the Heisman Trophy and the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award. Not bad for a small town Texas kid that no one knew about at the start of the season. Manziel would close out this well decorated and highly successful campaign with a Cotton Bowl MVP performance against former BIG 12 rival Oklahoma in a 41-13 dragging where he set the rushing yards record for a Quarterback with (229). A phenomenal close to a story book season. The question now is "What's NEXT" ?


   There is no question that Johnny Manziel's freshman year as QB of the Texas A&M Aggies was one for the ages. What does he do for an encore ? Is it unrealistic to expect 3,000 yards passing, 1,000 yards rushing, 20 TD passes and 20 rushing TDs again ? The answer is yes. What we witnessed this past season by this young man was nothing short of amazing. The reality is his team should benefit for the attention his performance garnered nationally in the recruiting arena. You also have to factor in that this team that finished #5 in the AP and Coaches Poll will catch no one by surprise this upcoming season. Many wonder what type of QB he will be on the next level. With the success of the read option and more specifically what a smaller QB like Russell Wilson was able to do this year for the Seattle Seahawks you wonder in Manziel could be in line for similar success. If he has a season anywhere close to the one he just compiled, I expect him to declare for the NFL Draft (he'd be able to because he's a red-shirt freshman and not a TRUE freshman). One Draft expert sees him as the 25th ranked prospect, overall, but we know how those projections can fluctuate. I'm more interested to see how he measures up at the Pro-Combine and at his Pro-Day. If he is a legit 6'1" and 200 lbs (as listed) and has a decent 40 time (ran a 4.7 coming out of High School) and shows professional level arm strength, this kid could be something special on the next level. You always hear about QBs that have that "it". It's something you can't touch but you can feel it. It's contagious and this guy has an ability to escape collapsing pockets and make big plays out of it that would give Defensive Coordinators fits because he does things you can't game plan for (similar to Wilson). The Alabama game was a small sample of his playmaking ability against the BEST team in College Football. You do have to be concerned about him being able to endure the beating Pro QBs take week in and week out. If he goes to a team that struggles to protect the QB the Offensive minds that be better have something drawn up to combat that. As fans of College Football and the NFL, this will be a fun story to keep up with (just like last year). Buckle up and enjoy the ride ...

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