• Sports Of All Sorts Scattered Between The Dots……………What About Johnny Manziel……………………………..By RC

    Manziel
    Photo: G.J. McCarthy/AP

    What a season for Johnny Manziel, the Texas A&M redshirt freshman from Kerrville. When I tuned into the Florida game at College Station one of the reasons for doing so was to see who was quarterbacking the Aggies since first rounder and Miami Dolphin starter Ryan Tannehill had departed via graduation from the College Station campus. And when they called Johnny Manziel’s name, I wasn’t too surprised since the Texas Football magazine had listed him number two on the depth chart…………..
    ………………But even at that, things can change during the summer and fall. The game was near halftime and the Aggies were holding a 17-10 lead. Since I had missed most of the game to this point, as usual I was depending on the play by play guys to catch me up on what had been happening. The 17-10 Aggie lead was a little shocking, but playing at Kyle Field for anyone is no easy task and Florida was not the same Florida that had been used to winning championships some four or five years ago. I also have great confidence in players who have grown up playing high school football in the state of Texas. So I settled in to watch the second half……………….
    …………………As the second half progressed toward a very disappointing end for the Aggies I could not say that I was surprised at the outcome. Will Muschamp, Florida head coach and former University of Texas defensive coordinator is one of the most respected defensive minds in college football. In short he had been known to shut down more experienced and more talented quarterbacks than Johnny Manziel. So the newcomers to the Southeastern Conference could only take away an arguable moral victory because losing 24-17 proved that they could stand toe to toe with one of the elites of probably the best conference in America……………
    ………………..New head coach Kevin Sumlin, hired away from the University of Houston, realized that he had a pretty darn good outfit. And even though the loss to the Gators was painful this guy knew how to bounce back and how to win. So he regrouped and started anew with Manziel and a very talented offensive line who, even fairly young, had a lot of experience. He also had experience at the receiving position and one of the top clutch performers in all of college football, Ryan Swope. His running backs led by Christine Michael weren’t too shabby either……..
    ………………..But even with the experience at all those positions, Sumlin did something very smart: he put the football in Manziel’s hands. Even though the kid had been shut down in the second half in the all important Florida game, he had shown flashes of brilliance in the first half. Sumlin would not be disappointed. His signal caller would gain both experience and confidence in the coming weeks as they rolled toward yet another SEC showdown with LSU to also be played at Kyle Field………….
    ………………Much like the Florida game the Aggies came out and, even though not on top at intermission, were trailing the highly ranked Tigers by a mere two points. And much like the SEC opener Manziel was kept in check for the second half. He did manage to drive the team to a score with just over a minute left to cut the LSU lead to five points. A failed onside kick brought A&M their second defeat in conference play……………………..
    …………………After LSU, Manziel and the Aggies completely obliterated both Auburn and Mississippi State, they now seemed to be on a mission readying for the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa. They went into a hostile environment as is the case in probably every SEC venue. But the kid had his team ready. Alabama coming off a stunning late game surge that brought them a victory in Baton Rouge the prior week looked spent emotionally. The Aggies however were coming at them with reckless abandon on both sides of the ball. And with every pass and every score the legend of Johnny Manziel grew……………….
    ……………….The talented and seemingly very cerebral young quarterback simply decimated the Tide secondary and built a 20-0 lead by the end of the first stanza. But then Alabama dug in and much as LSU and Florida had done began to slow the Aggie offense. But this time the now more seasoned Manziel proved his escalating worth as he never let the Tide take the lead. His final touchdown toss with around six minutes left to play was enough as a late game interception on the goal line preserved the monumental upset………………….
    ……………….But now the Johnny Manziel frenzy was on and the Heisman hype surrounding him was at fever pitch. His play against lower classed, but powerful in that league, Sam Houston State and a complete domination of the once proud Missouri Tigers just added fodder to the Heisman talk. And now the talk wasn’t just on the A&M campus but on every sports talk show and news segment all across the nation. So this unknown commodity who lined up against Louisiana Tech for a shootout in game one on August 30 was now seemingly everyone’s pick to take home the prestigious award on December 8…………………
    ……………….The early season favorite Collin Klein and his Kansas State team had been upset at Baylor and his inability to overcome a much improved Bear defense just added to the Manziel love fest. And finally when he was released to talk to the media Manziel was very humble sounding and his appreciation for the game and the opportunities it had provided him sounded so genuine. The betting odds for him to be recipient were growing in Vegas and beyond…………..
    ……………… But not so fast! With Manziel and the Aggies sitting idle while K State hosted the beaten up but still capable young Texas Longhorns, Klein had one last chance to prove that he deserved to be reckoned with as well. The Texas game was not going the way he, the Wildcats, or their fans wanted at halftime. But in the second half the senior leader did what he has done so many times for his team. He took it on his shoulders and just took the game from the mistake- prone Longhorns and came away with a 42-14 victory……………………
    ………………..Is what Klein had done in his final home game enough? Had Johnny Manziel’s stock now risen so high that it was insurmountable? Only the voters know for sure. And not to be left out of the conversation is Notre Dame linebacker Manti T’eo who has led his team into the national championship game and who has had a fantastic year himself. But for whatever reason defensive players seemingly are never the favorites. So the fast approaching decision to see who wins the coveted Heisman is probably a two man race……………………
    …………………As for Johnny Manziel, there is little doubt that he deserves to be the winner, but so do the other two. Leading up to this conclusion I have written about all the reasons that his name is on the list. Now let me say that I think that Klein has proven himself for three years and even though probably not as talented as Manziel, he is every bit as talented in the clutch. I will also say that the quarterback in Sumlin’s offense will always be the focus. His previous quarterback at Houston, Case Keenum, also put up Heisman-like numbers. He, however, didn’t play in the SEC and never had a chance to upset a major power. So has Manziel really done anything that Keenum didn’t other than be gifted with more mobility and an outstanding offensive line and corps of receivers……………………
    ……………………We will soon learn the answers to these questions. Whichever of these gifted nominees brings home the hardware, will be well-deserving. While it is easy to pull for the veteran Klein or the unselfish T’eo, who opted to come back to South Bend for his senior year in hopes of accomplishing what no one thought the Irish could do: play for a national championship, it is also hard not to root for a former Texas schoolboy from Kerrville who is on the verge of bringing the first Heisman trophy to the A&M campus since 1957………….
    …………………..And my only advice to Johnny Manziel would be to carry himself with the same class, character, integrity, and dignity as that last guy: the ever talented and humble John David Crow………………………………………………RC

    About Ronnie Clifton

    Ronnie Clifton was a Texas Football Coach for 29 years. In addition to football, Clifton also served as the head coach in basketball and both girls and boys track. “I loved being involved in and playing sports as a kid, and I soaked up every ounce of available information about any sporting event; I also love to write. What better combo for me than becoming the writer of a sports blog?”
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