by Roland S. Martin
There are some sports figures who, no matter who else is playing, make you simply want to turn on the television to see what kind of excitement they will bring to the game.
Barry Sanders. Deion Sanders. Michael Jordan. Reggie Jackson. Wayne Gretzky. Pele.
They make up some of the greatest to ever play their respective sports, and when they hit the field, court or ice, all eyes were on them.
Texas A&M University quarterback Johnny Manziel hasn’t remotely achieved their level of stardom, but when it comes to being Mr. Excitement in college football, man, this kid can flat electrify the crowd with his play and leave his opponents shaking their heads in frustration.
I don’t care about Chip Kelly’s offense or Alabama’s defense or how Bill Snyder has revived Kansas State’s football program. There is no doubt that Johnny “Football” Manziel has taken the college football world by storm, and maybe by the end of the season, he could be the first freshman ever to win the Heisman Trophy.
Yes, the kid is just that good.
When Texas A&M made the decision to leave the Big 12 to play in the Southeastern Conference, fans and the media alike forecasted a tough few years for the Aggies. Everyone said, “Welcome to big boy football,” citing the recent national champions that have hailed from the conference.
The critics said the noble men of Kyle Field — Texas A&M’s home stadium — would be the doormat of the league, languishing at the bottom and following the path of Arkansas, who left the Aggies in the Southwest Conference in 1991 for the SEC and disappeared into oblivion.
All of that changed last Saturday when the Aggies went to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, for the first time and knocked off the defending national champions and the No. 1-ranked team in the country, the Alabama Crimson Tide.
The one play that will be remembered was the touchdown where Manziel stepped up in the pocket, ran into one of his own players, the ball popped up in the air, he caught it, rolled left and found Ryan Swope in the back of the end zone.
He is a fearless kid. Slide after a big run? Nope. Manziel wants to take the head off a linebacker or a safety by slamming into them. He’s not built like a Mack truck in the mold of Tim Tebow. But after the hit, he pops up and runs around the field like an 8-year-old ready for the next play.
The mania around Johnny Football has taken on epic proportions. And it’s only going to get bigger, which says a lot in Texas, where football has long been like a religion.
Manziel’s emergence is excellent for the ninth-ranked Texas A&M Aggies and first-year Coach Kevin Sumlin. For decades, Texas A&M has played in the shadows of its archrival, the Texas Longhorns. While A&M has enjoyed some successful teams in the last two decades, the Longhorns have long been a national power.
The success of the Aggies with Manziel will no doubt help recruiting. And if the runaway candidate to be the MVP of the SEC continues to meet the Heisman hype, the legend of Johnny Football will only grow. That’s good for my alma mater, Texas A&M; good for the SEC; and good the casual fan who desires a mythical figure to root for.