Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel has made strides as a passer and continues to put up incredible statistics despite a horrendous defense supporting him. That sustained excellence amid those circumstances proves Manziel has what it takes to thrive at the NFL level.
It could still be another year or two before Johnny Football takes his talents to football's ultimate stage, but he tweeted in his controversial offseason that he "can't wait" to leave College Station.
Part of that, he implied, was due to the scrutiny he faced as perhaps the most talked-about star in the history of college football.
Those who doubted Manziel would continue to live up to the hype after becoming the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy are now eating their words, though.
Manziel has helped Texas A&M rake in donations of $740 million over the past year. Imagine how he could bring life to an NFL franchise—especially a struggling one.
The sophomore superstar has suffered two losses in the 2013 season, but he has combined for 1,064 yards of total offense in those two games. It's far from his fault that the Aggies are now out of the national title picture.
Auburn just fooled Aggies D on 56-yard passing play along right sideline. Breaking news: A&M defense needs help.— Brent Zwerneman (@BrentZwerneman) October 19, 2013
Auburn—which is now No. 11 in the first BCS standings—was the most recent team to defeat Manziel and Co., and the other was the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide.
With that in mind, Manziel could easily sit out the impending game against unranked Vanderbilt at home. However, CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman reports Manziel should be ready to go on Saturday, with his throwing arm out of a sling:
Am told Johnny Manziel will be fine to play Sat and is out of sling today, per source. #Aggies— Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) October 22, 2013
This shows the competitive fire and passion Manziel has for football, which surfaces on the gridiron often.
But why is Manziel criticized for his exuberance when others in the past such as, say, Brett Favre, have been lauded for it?
A less mentally tough player may not find the will to continue leading his team down the field without a defense that can stop the opponent almost ever. A less all-around gifted player might not be able to make it happen.
Manziel has the leadership to keep his teammates' heads up and push them forward without thinking about the negativity that comes with a defense yielding 33.9 points per game.
The 20-year-old is more mature than his years indicate—and more so than the court of public opinion gives him credit for.
All those who criticize Manziel should take a judicial activist's approach and appreciate the anti-atavist that Johnny Football is to the many who preceded him as college quarterbacks.
This is a unique kid dealing with a unique amount of attention in an unprecedented time of media exposure and scrutiny. In spite of the negative attention he's generated, with some of it being self-inflicted, he has thrived beyond expectations.
Where should Johnny Manziel go in the 2014 draft, if he declares?
Manziel is on pace to throw more picks than he did as a freshman, but he's also had to press more in multiple shootout games. He's bumped his completion percentage up by over five points to 73.3 percent, and his yards per attempt are up by two—from 8.5 in 2012 to 10.5 now.
And that's not even mentioning what he's overcome on the gridiron this year, being complemented by a No. 118-ranked defense and consistently facing the toughest competition in the Southeastern Conference.
This concoction could be a dangerous cocktail for so many college student-athletes, but Manziel is taking it all in stride, seeming to relish the moment the more adverse it is.
At 6'1" and 210 pounds, it seems Manziel is a longer shot than some of his peers to thrive as a professional football player.
Keep doubting him, though. He'll just keep making plays, because that's what Johnny Football does.
Both the tangible production he's putting forth on the field and the intangibles he's shown as a result of the drama off it will all prepare Manziel to be a raging success in the National Football League.