Being a redshirt freshman in college football is supposed to provide a player with an opportunity to learn the intricacies of the game. Texas A&M quarterback and 2012 Heisman Trophy-winner Johnny Manziel shattered everyone's expectations this season.
But what about next season?
Manziel was not on anyone's radar for anything in 2012. He made his first start against a great Florida defense on Sept. 8. Despite completing 23 of his 30 passes, he had just 173 passing yards and 60 rushing yards with one touchdown in a 20-17 loss.
No one would have thought that performance would begin the transformation from Johnny Manziel to Johnny Heisman, but after setting an SEC record with 4,600 yards of total offense (3,419 passing, 1,181 rushing), he became the biggest star in college football.
Manziel also became the first SEC player to have more than 3,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in a season. Oh yeah, he also had 43 total touchdowns (24 passing, 19 rushing). He did this while leading the Aggies to a 10-2 record, an upset of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and a spot in the Cotton Bowl.
As Ivan Maisel of ESPN.com wrote after Manziel won the Heisman, that's not bad for a player who had no hype surrounding him, including in College Station, just five months ago.
It didn't matter that Manziel began the season as an unknown. It didn't matter that he is a redshirt freshman. It didn't even matter that Manziel began the season with a loss to Florida. That loss provides the baseline by which to measure Manziel's growth.
All of the accolades and praise right now are great, but as we know all too well in sports, the future will tell us all we need to know about Manziel.
There are only a few things that Manziel can do in 2013 that could even come close to matching what he did in 2012. He would have to break the records he set this season, win an SEC championship, another Heisman Trophy and play in a BCS game.
Considering the Aggies will be losing Christine Michael, Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu, three players who combined to score 25 touchdowns this season, that will be a difficult task for Manziel.
Nothing that Manziel does in the future will take away from the magic he created in 2012. When you set the bar so incredibly high for yourself, though, there is almost nowhere to go but down.
Fans, analysts, everyone will be measuring Manziel by the standard of the greatest players in college football history from now on, not just among today's great players. For an unknown just a few months ago, it is not a bad place for Manziel to be in.
But it is a difficult spot for Manziel to duplicate, or improve upon, what he was able to do in 2012. Expectations rise and fall on a weekly basis. No one will have more placed on their table next season than Manziel.
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