Love Him or Hate Him, Fans Should Savor Every Last Second of Johnny Manziel
With eight weeks of the 2013 season complete, Johnny Manziel has just six games remaining as a college football player.
However, that's only if he can return from his shoulder injury and is healthy enough to complete the balance of the Aggies’ regular-season schedule and a bowl game.
What it amounts to is a maximum of 12 halves, 24 quarters or 360 minutes more of the collegian edition of Johnny Football.
Though Manziel is one of the most polarizing figures in the history of the game, what’s left of his brief passage through the institutional ranks should be sopped up with a biscuit.
Indeed, even if you’re appalled by Manziel’s antics, it’s worth your while to sit down and watch him play his last college games, taking in the unforgettable sight of a rare comet burning across the screen.
Manziel has had quite the busy sophomore campaign, experiencing everything from being thrown out of a frat party to narrowly escaping long-term NCAA ineligibility. The brief reign of Johnny Football has been (if nothing else) as dramatic as a semester in junior high school.
The video below—by ESPN’s Wright Thompson—summarizes the controversy Manziel has produced simply by being himself, both on and off the field.
Even if you’ve grown weary of discussing the many angles of the Manziel phenomenon, it’s difficult to deny that he hasn’t changed the way we think about college football and its participants.
Perhaps what’s most impressive about Manziel—qualities that manage to be overshadowed by his aura—is his remarkable athletic ability.
Though he could be called lots of names, the bottom line is that he is a special football player in spite of—or maybe because of—his personal traits.
It’s intriguing that what gets him in trouble off the field also fuels his greatness on the field.
Manziel’s ability to change games and to confuse and upend opposing defenses is difficult to statistically track. This all has to do with his innate ability to make something out of nothing; a quality that at least partially stems from his fearless attitude.
Categories that could be added to track Manziel might be “plays saved,” “super scrambles” or most “11-yard losses that result in 32-yard gains.” On the other hand, maybe the most accurate way to numerically account for Manziel’s greatness would be a “net gain” statistic.
To illustrate, take a look at the following video clips, which pay tribute to classic Manziel-isms in action.
The first comes in this season’s narrow but epic loss to Alabama, and the second from the Aggies’ dramatic win over Ole Miss.
What can be statistically illustrated is how Manziel has single-handedly transformed Texas A&M’s offense (with the help of Kevin Sumlin, who debuted at the same time).
College Football Statistics
Not only has Manziel led the Aggies offense to an average of 100 more yards and seven additional points per game, but he has been responsible for a whopping 70 percent of the team’s total output (ranked No. 3 nationally) since last season.
College Football Statistics
Whether you approve of Manziel or not, he is one of the most exciting, impactful and productive players in history.
Though the “Manziel effect” on college football has been a wild ride, what’s even more intriguing is looking beyond the 2013 season.
Manziel is the perfect storm of swirling controversy, extreme confidence and gifted athleticism to make the future seem promising and scary all in the same breath.
Yes, this guy could beat all of the odds again and become one of the greatest players in the history of the NFL (remember, he was a 3-star recruit who won the Heisman as a freshman).
Or, he could bomb out professionally and personally like Ryan Leaf, who he’s often been compared to.
The question is easy, but the answers are complicated: What happens when Manziel is done playing football at Texas A&M University?
For an up-close-and-personal estimation, take a look at what Manziel’s father had to say about the possibility of Johnny Football completely taking over what's left of Johnny Manziel (per ESPN the Magazine’s Wright Thompson):
"Yeah," Paul [Manziel] says one evening, driving in his car, "It could come unraveled. And when it does, it’s gonna be bad. Real bad."
He imagines a late-night call, and the cable news ticker, and the next morning's headlines.
"It's one night away from the phone ringing," he says, "and he's in jail. And you know what he's gonna say? 'It's better than all the pressure I've been under. This is better than that.'"
While it’s far from a forgone conclusion, let’s hope for Manziel’s sake that the traits that make him so brilliant on the field don’t ultimately become his undoing in his bigger role in life.
Regardless of anyone’s individual take on the young man, the prospect of Manziel's thrilling brand of play in the NFL is tantalizing.
But until then, college football enthusiasts should enjoy every last crumb on the table in the feast of Johnny Football—even if it leaves a bit of a bad taste in your mouth.
Statistics courtesy of College Football Statistics.
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