That was how Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin labeled quarterback Johnny Manziel's status all week, after the reigning Heisman Trophy winner injured his right shoulder on a hit early in the fourth quarter of last week's loss to Auburn.
Johnny Football showed up, started and was up to his old tricks on Saturday afternoon at Kyle Field in the Aggies' 56-24 win over Vanderbilt.
Manziel completed 25-of-35 passes for 305 yards, four touchdowns and one pick, adding 11 yards on the ground. Despite clearly favoring his shoulder from the outset, he came out hot, completing all 10 passes he threw on the first drive of the game which culminated with an eight-yard pass to Derel Walker to open the scoring.
This is Manziel putting his team on his back.
He knows that his defense is a liability, and he knows its on him to pick up the slack even if he isn't 100 percent. That enough should keep him in the Heisman race despite last week's loss and Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston's emergence as a legitimate threat.
The Aggies' loss to Auburn last week wasn't on him. It's not Manziel's fault that his defense couldn't stop the run. Saturday's win over Vanderbilt is on him.
He put his team on his back and they rode him to victory, as they should.
|Johnny Manziel Through Eight Games|
|Year||Passing Yards||Rushing Yards||Total TDs|
Manziel has 22 touchdown passes on the season—six more than he had through eight games last season. He has 2,594 passing yards through eight games, more than his 2,216 at this point last season. His rushing numbers are down, but he's not sneaking up on anyone anymore, and it's clear that teams are forcing Manziel to beat them through the air.
He's doing it consistently, and even in games in which his team doesn't win, the blame doesn't fall on his shoulders.
ESPN's Skip Bayless doesn't just think he's in the mix, he's already etching Manziel's name on the trophy.
To me, Johnny Football is winning his second straight Heisman Trophy. Obviously the best player in college football.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) October 26, 2013
That's a bit of a stretch.
He may very well be the best player in college football, but it's not obvious. Marcus Mariota is putting up similar numbers despite sitting quite often in the second halves of games, and the redshirt freshman Winston is leading a scary good Seminoles team while looking like a seasoned veteran in the process.
While Manziel's team is out of the national title mix, that shouldn't eliminate him from the Heisman race. The award is given to the most "outstanding player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity." The "integrity" part may cost him due to last offseason's litany of off-the-field incidents, most of which were blown out of proportion.
But the "excellence" part won't. He is repeating the feat from last season, and doing so with an enormous amount of pressure generated from his superstar status, last season's accolades and a defense that forces him to put up video game numbers.
Manziel's status heading into the Vandy game was "hopeful." His status leaving it is "Heisman hopeful."
Like a broken record.