As most of you already know, Wright Thompson recently wrote a fascinating piece on Johnny Manziel for ESPN the Magazine. It’s lengthy, but I encourage you to take 20 minutes and read it.
If you don’t have that kind of time, the feature primarily focused on Johnny’s struggle with fame and the family’s growing displeasure with the entire situation.
Ladies and gentlemen, the day of reckoning has arrived. I should probably take more time to really process what this article means, but it’s so fascinating that I just can’t wait. There’s so much material to digest and decipher.
The one portion of this pie that I want to dive into is the now tumultuous relationship between the Manziel family and Texas A&M. According to those in Johnny’s inner circle, Texas A&M has begun to turn on the Manziels, as evidenced by their belief that the school leaked the story about Manziel nearly being suspended for 2012 and then coming close to transferring to another school as a result of his well-known arrest. 1
Why would Texas A&M do that? It was a matter of time. A few months ago, I openly wondered when the Aggie press would turn on Johnny even though Manziel has buttered their bread thicker than ever before over the past year. We have started to see some passive-aggressive tones from the beat writers in regards to Manziel’s celebrity status. The beat writers are fairly righteous former students, so I assume the ultra-righteous administration would share similar beliefs when it came to Johnny.
Again though – why?
Amid all the glorious times that we’ve experienced over the past year (that have only been possible because of Johnny Manziel) we’ve lost sight of the fact that a good deal of what Johnny does is in contradiction with traditional Aggie standards. In fact, I think part of the reason Johnny is so good is because he is so anti-Aggie.
I don’t say that in the way you’re probably thinking; I’m sure Johnny loves to pet Reveille, go to Muster, show up at Big Event, and only buy his chicken fingers from Layne’s, not Cane’s, because that’s what Aggies do. Manziel is anti-Aggie in that he’s flashy, cocky, and isn’t afraid to put himself before school. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that, it’s just different from what most Aggies expect and often cherish. From the way he dresses, to what he drives, to the lifestyle he appears to strive for, he’s unlike the overwhelming majority of Aggies (or at least their general perception). On the field, I absolutely believe this is what frees him from the pressures that overwhelmed former quarterbacks (one with a name that rhymes with Merrod Mohnson comes to mind). It’s great that we have such a special school that people and players love so much, but I believe that being free from that blind reverence allows Johnny to focus on one thing when he plays football: winning and winning well. 2
It’s clear from Thompson’s feature that this isn’t going to change, either. Obviously, Manziel loves the spotlight, is incredibly immature, and is a very confused young man. Johnny doesn’t seem to be very interested in seeking his parents’ guidance (although Paul Manziel doesn’t exactly strike me as a valuable source of wisdom) and it makes you wonder what his relationship with Kevin Sumlin is looking like these days. 3
Manziel’s lifestyle has ruffled plenty of feathers over the past few months. It seems that we’re supposed to fall into two camps on this issue: those who think Johnny should be able to live his life as he sees fit, and those who think Johnny should walk the predetermined line. Personally, I agree with Scott’s belief that winning cures all, but I’m troubled by Manziel’s insistence on living this way.
At the end of the day though, if living his life this way is what makes him the player he is, I’m in. Manziel’s not going to change. It may be up to Texas A&M to decide if they will.
Footnotes section added by Scott Klovans
1 By the way, I remember hearing this tidbit and seeing it as a good bonding story between Johnny and Sumlin. Johnny was on the cusp of suspension (and thus transferring) and Sumlin stepped in, proposed an alternative way of thinking, and took steps to keep Johnny in the program. Was I delusional or did anybody hear that version?
2 Ben Berryman, coming in strong with a hot, fresh Johnny thought. I dig it and I fully agree. You could even go so far as to say that Johnny’s penchant for doing the unexpected on the field (and succeeding), may spill over to his normal life, where success isn’t determined by crossing a goal line.
3 I honestly envision (or hope to envision) a parallel to Friday Night Light’s Coach Taylor and his relationship with uber-talented, often distracted QB Vince. Coach Taylor never overstepped his boundaries and he always forced his players to take responsibility for their actions. It was tough to watch sometimes, I wanted Coach Taylor to step out of his comfort zone and show some sympathy or even go so far as to fix the situation. But he always knew, it wasn’t his situation to fix, he was dealing with unstable, moldable young men. I really wonder what Sumlin’s current stance really is? I don’t know the guy, but he seems like Coach Taylor to me, calm, collected, authoritative, intellectual, and ultimately a guy who wouldn’t give two shits about some fluffy ESPN article. I sure do hope Manziel looks up that.