Last season the talk of Johnny Football, also known as Johnny Manziel, exploded after Texas A&M beat Alabama, which was a huge stepping stone for him in becoming a national phenomenon and the first Freshman to win the Heisman trophy.
A lot has happened since. A&M did go on to finish the season with only two losses, both of them coming before that stunning win over the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa. Suddenly, the Aggies became the main threat to Alabama in the SEC West, not LSU. Destroying Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl was all the proof anyone needed to put the Aggies as number one or number 2 in the way-too-early College Football polls coming out after Alabama won their third national title in four years.
You’re not going to find a better analysis of the problems Alabama had, and how they’re going to fix them in this way-too-early matchup between the two schools than Chris C. Brown’s take on the matter. But in a rare moment, Alabama won’t be story when they take the field in College Station. It’s going to be about Johnny Manziel, and how he responds to everything that’s happened since he won the Heisman.
Because as impressive as he might have been in the wins over Rice and Sam Houston State, all eyes were turned to his behavior. Maybe he’s arrogant, and maybe he’s asking for trouble and attention. But Manziel is acting his age, to the surprise of many. It’s impossible to distinguish collegiate & teenage from pro and mature because how College Football has developed and what it has turned into. The expectations and the standards these kids are being held to because they’re amateurs feeding a huge money making machine on a local and national level don’t match the reality of the matter.
Manziel partied. And he probably broke a few NCAA laws with his autograph signings. And he didn’t wake on time and got kicked out of camp. He doesn’t seem to mind. Maybe he is just a College star, doomed to be an overvalued pick in the NFL Draft. But it doesn’t mean that everything we saw from his last season was an illusion.
When trying to break down the Manziel performance to individual games, his losses to LSU and Florida always come up. The loss to the Gators was his first ever game in College Football. His loss to LSU was a bad day against an excellent defense. The way he shredded the Alabama D (24-of-31 for 253 yards and two touchdowns, 92 more yards on the ground) told a story of someone who has a great offensive line, but also knows how to pick himself up from lackluster performances.
The next crossroad for Manziel is Kyle Field this weekend. It seems like anything but a repeat of last season’s win and his own individual performance will be the cue for everyone to start the Manziel bashing once again, with overrated being thrown a lot. One game doesn’t define a season or a career. Manziel is as good as he was last season, it’s just the people, who love building players up so they can tear them down, who don’t see him with pink shaded glasses anymore.