Johnny Manziel’s Legacy Could Include a Title for A&M
Johnny Manziel probably played his final home game as Aggie quarterback at Kyle Field over the weekend vs. Mississippi State. There’s about a 99 percent chance that he goes pro after the season and declares for the NFL Draft.
Johnny Football, we hardly knew ye.
Well, at least the college football version of you on the playing field. ESPN sure tried to define you, playing you as everything from hero to villain to magician, and everything in-between. Most of the media coverage seemed to have an agenda (ratings), and in turn produced an inaccurate portrayal of a young man named Jonathan Manziel who simply likes to have fun and is pretty good at playing football.
His Aggie career will be a mere 26 games when its all said and done. Despite that, Manziel is one of those rare transcendent figures in sports whose impact cannot simply be measured in their time on the playing field.
Robert Griffin III is one such figure, as is Vince Young, Peyton Manning and Archie Manning. RGIII’s impact on Baylor can be seen heading south on I-35, where a new stadium for 2014 is being built for the Bears. Sure, this year’s Baylor team is good in its own right under Art Briles, but the momentum began with Griffin.
Same with both Mannings. Archie is still the measuring stick in Oxford while Peyton could probably run for governor of Tennessee and win in a walk. But Peyton also represents the closest comparison to Manziel.
No, Peyton didn’t win a Heisman (though he should have in 1997, in my opinion). But what he did do was take a Volunteer team and begin a rise of momentum that led to a national title a year after he left for the NFL.
I’m not saying that Texas A&M is going to be national champions next year; what I am saying is that the Aggies should be in position to make a run at it for several seasons to come. And a lot of that will be because of Johnny Manziel.
The Aggies are ahead of schedule. Their vision in moving to the SEC last year was that it was a 100-year decision. Leadership put their faith in Kevin Sumlin to build a program that would eventually compete in the league, giving kids in Texas a real choice to play in the SEC and stay close to home.
Manziel brought the third ingredient to create a perfect storm in A&M’s debut in the SEC, a player who literally could put his entire team on his back and win, week after week.
Sumlin alone brings a cool factor that gives the Aggies a recruiting advantage that, when paired with the SEC, makes A&M a desirable place for top recruits to play. Manziel has expedited that advantage, so much so that A&M was able to sign the top player in the state on each side of the ball in 2013, to go with four top-potential receivers. But that’s not why A&M will be in a position to win championships.
Look at this year’s version of the Aggies; what’s the main issue? Defense. The majority of the players on defense are not SEC-ready, at least not yet. A&M is depending on a ton of young players on D, many of them true freshmen. They need time in the weight room and time to mature. But, there’s a lot of them and they’re going to be good.
We haven’t even touched the 2014 recruiting class and even 2015, where Texas A&M has verbal commitments from many of the top front-seven players in not only the state, but the nation. Several five-star defensive linemen (where SEC games are won) are in the boat. Mark it down – the Aggies’ defense is going to be downright nasty in about two seasons. I’m talking, dare I say it, Wrecking Crew nasty.
And then there’s quarterback, the position that Manziel plays. If there is one postion that you never have to worry about under Sumlin, it’s quarterback. He knows how to coach the position. From Manziel to Case Keenum to Jason White, Sumlin has molded and developed some of the best. Expect that to continue.
Sumlin was able to get the No. 1 quarterback in the nation – Kyle Allen out of Arizona – to commit for 2014. In fact, he’ll enroll early and will take part in spring football in a few months. Then there’s Kenny Hill, the freshman phenom out of Southlake Carroll who will battle with Allen for the starting job, along with veteran Matt Joeckel. The ironic part is that Hill probably wouldn’t have come to A&M had Manziel not have been so good and won the Heisman last year. Hill wants to play and saw the writing on the wall that Manziel probably was going pro.
The reasons these kids are committing to A&M – they like what they see in the direction of the program, the SEC and, of course, Sumlin. But the success enjoyed with Manziel at the helm has been the biggest recruiting tool, as instant results have only added to the cool factor and created a snowball of momentum.
Texas A&M was literally talked about every day on ESPN since Manziel and Co. walked into Tuscaloosa and downed the No. 1 Crimson Tide (one year ago yesterday, by the way). That includes the off-season, where Johnny Football’s every move was chronicled like he was one of the Kardashians. Most of the Manziel over-coverage was needless and unnecessary, but what it did do was make Texas A&M a household name in all corners of the country.
Manziel is easily the best player to ever play at A&M. Some argue he’s the best player college football has ever seen. Without him, A&M’s baptism into the SEC would certainly have been rougher. Success most likely would have come but it would have taken some more time to build.
Whether you like Johnny Manziel or hate him, admit it – you like watching him play. That’s a common theme that the ratings prove. A&M has three more games to be nationally televised with Manziel at quarterback, and plenty of recruit eyeballs will be taking in those scenes as well.
Manziel’s time as Aggie quarterback may be coming to a close, but his impact on the program will stretch into the future and beyond. If the Aggies do, in fact, win a national title in the next few years, Manziel will be a big reason. Perhaps Sumlin should keep Manziel’s cell number handy to get his ring size. And say thanks.