From Johnny Manziel to Johnny Football to Johnny Heisman, the Texas A&M quarterback turned 20-year-old legend in four months turned from a nobody to a national darling.
Winning the Heisman Memorial Trophy on Saturday, Manziel put the perfect ribbon on an unforgettable first season in the Southeastern Conference.
Manziel’s story is well documented. Just a year ago he was wondering who his next head coach would be after Mike Sherman was dumped after a disappointing 6-6 regular season. In the spring he was rated second string quarterback behind Jameill Showers. A summer of hard work — an ignominious night on Northgate notwithstanding — earned Manziel the starting job.
By the end of the season, Manziel’s numbers were better than that of Cam Newton and Tim Tebow, two SEC legends in their own right, earning the Aggie QB the most prestigious award in college football — and perhaps in all of sport.
So what’s next for the man who achieved such incredible success so quickly?
Besides the obvious, a Cotton Bowl win over former Big 12 rival Oklahoma, there’s a clear path for Manziel and Texas A&M.
As a former student at Texas A&M, there were two major football achievements that were essentially the entire impetus behind the best student section in America: the 1939 national championship and John David Crow’s Heisman in 1957.
Now that Manziel has added a second Heisman, it’s time for the Aggies to add a second national title.
The pressure on Manziel next year will be immense. He’ll be expected to duplicate, if not improve, his numbers or he won’t come close in next year’s Heisman balloting. Unfortunately, that’s the way the world works these days, as voters will be sick of hearing about him by the start of next season and ready for someone new. (Remember Tebow fatigue?)
However, there is plenty of room for growth for Manziel and the Aggies.
Manziel set the SEC record for total offense with 4,600 yards in 12 games, two fewer than the two previous record holders: Tebow and Newton.
With an extra game or two, Manziel could reasonably set the record again next year.
Additionally, Johnny Football’s numbers could increase if he just stayed in games longer. Manziel did not finish more than half of Texas A&M’s games this year because the Aggies were ahead by too much.
Against South Carolina State, he didn’t play after halftime. Against SMU, Auburn and Sam Houston State, he was out before the start of the fourth quarters. Manziel played one drive in the fourth quarters against Arkansas, Mississippi State and Missouri.
Of course, if the Aggies expect to be better next year, they’ll no doubt have more blowouts where Manziel is not needed in the second halves of games — though it does point out how impressive Manziel’s stats were this year.
Texas A&M has a chance to be a consensus preseason top 5 team if two or three of their potential first-round draft picks decide to come back for their senior years.
Offensive linemen Luke Joeckel (Outland Trophy winner) and Jake Matthews (yes, son of Hall of Famer Bruce) as well as defensive lineman Damontre Moore (the next Von Miller) could all hear their names called early in the NFL draft should they go pro. However, if all come back, the Aggies will have legitimate national title aspirations.
Of course, there are other contingencies: starting center Patrick Lewis must be replaced and offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury and his skinny ties could be filched by the sudden and baffling opening at his alma mater Texas Tech. Regardless, the Aggies, with what should be an impressive first recruiting class as an SEC member, will be a team no one wants to face next year.
Manziel made this past year a special one for Aggie fans. Had a few kicks gone A&M’s way, the team could be undefeated and playing Notre Dame for the national title.
Johnny Football has done just about everything right in 2012 and could be in for an even better 2013.
Yet there’s one thing he couldn’t do this year, the one thing that used to matter more than anything to Texas A&M: beat Texas.
But while the Longhorns can’t find a quarterback — it sure seems like a long time since VY and Colt, doesn’t it? — the Aggies are on to bigger things: winning Heismans and doing something else UT hasn’t been able to do recently: beat OU.