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Texas A&M breaks policy, allows star freshman quarterback Manziel to address the media

Courtesy of Aggie Athletics

Johnny Manziel has thrown for more than 3,400 yards and 24 touchdowns this season, in addition to nearly 1,200 yards on the ground and 19 touchdowns.

For months, Johnny Manziel has captured the imagination of the college football world.

Who were some players he tried to emulate? How was he feeling when he took a 20-0 lead on then-No. 1 Alabama? What goes through his mind when he’s running around trying to make a play?

For weeks and months, the answers to these questions were solely imagination. A Texas A&M policy prevents freshmen from speaking to the media, so the media went on without talking to the most intriguing talent in college football and Heisman Trophy frontrunner.

Earlier this week, the world finally got its answers: John Elway and Doug Flutie, a feeling he will never forget and “Let’s score a touchdown.”

Texas A&M broke policy on Monday and hosted a teleconference for the quarterback. Manziel, no longer shrouded in quite as much myth and legend, spoke eloquently, calmly and confidently for about an hour.

Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin opened the teleconference by thanking the media for their patience this season with regards to the seemingly archaic system, and then proceeded to heap praise upon his star.

“As I’ve said the last couple of weeks, how Johnny has performed this season, his numbers speak for themselves, against anybody who’s played not only this year, but who’s played the game,” Sumlin said. “As we’ve gone through this process, he’s been a catalyst for this football team in the first season in the (Southeastern Conference).”

But after Sumlin’s opening statement, it was all Manziel for an hour.

Right off the bat, Manziel touched on just the subject one would expect: the origin of his nickname “Johnny Football.”

“I think it’s something that’s funny,” Manziel said. “I think it’s something a lot of people here in ‘Aggieland’ they enjoy, and that I find extremely funny.”

The media blackout has helped contribute to the legend of “Johnny Football,” but more important has been his production on the field. Manziel has accounted for 43 touchdowns this season and broke Cam Newton’s SEC record with 4,600 total yards for No. 10 Texas A&M.

Manziel’s crowning achievement, though, came on Nov. 10. Alabama entered its matchup with the then-No. 15 Aggies undefeated, and the favorite to win the national championship.

But Manziel was unfazed, and the Aggies jumped out to a 20-0 lead. The Crimson Tide rallied back to cut the lead to 23-17, but then Manziel found wide receiver Malcome Kennedy for a 24-yard touchdown, a play the quarterback called his favorite of the season.

“That’s one of what I believe was our most complete team plays, when you have 11 guys each doing their part to a full degree,” Manziel said. “Malcome Kennedy runs a great corner route, has a guy draped all over him, and he makes a one-handed catch to score the last touchdown on the road to go on and upset a No. 1 team. That feeling, you will never forget it.”

As Manziel’s status has grown, his life has changed away from the football field. When Manziel goes out to dinner, people come up to him asking for autographs and pictures with their children.

Still, Manziel remains humble. He said he hasn’t given much thought to the Heisman race, and of the countless YouTube videos of people singing about and praising the quarterback, Manziel has only seen one — a little girl claiming to be his No. 1 fan who he’s met several times after games.

“I don’t see myself as ‘Johnny Football,’” Manziel said. “I see myself as Jonathan Manziel, small-town guy from Kerrville, who’s just extremely fortunate and extremely blessed to be playing football at A&M.”

But the legend of “Johnny Football” would only truly be complete if Manziel goes on to become the first freshman to win the Heisman.

Though he said he doesn’t give the Heisman much thought, he still understands how significant winning it would be. Manziel would join former Aggies halfback John David Crow, whom Manziel’s father makes an effort to talk to during every game, as Texas A&M’s only Heisman winners.

Being the first freshman, though, would really be astounding. Manziel likens it to a video game, where even as a freshman a player can put up cartoonish numbers. Of course in those video games, Manziel said, he would make himself 6 feet 6 inches and 230 pounds.

But in reality, Manziel gets trash-talked for his scrawny 6-foot-1-inch, 200-pound frame. He may not be a prototypical video game creation, but that hasn’t held him back from perhaps the greatest season in college football history — in real life.

“It’s something that you dream about as a kid,” Manziel said. “When you’re sitting there playing all these NCAA games as a kid and you create a player and you win the Heisman as a freshman because you just put up crazy numbers, it’s something you can only sit back and dream about.

“It’s the biggest, most prestigious award in college football, so it would definitely be a dream come true.”

Game of the Week

No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Georgia

No. 1 Notre Dame has already punched its ticket to the Bowl Championship Series national championship game. Saturday’s matchup between Alabama and Georgia serves as a de facto semifinal to find the Fighting Irish’s opponent.

Like a typical Southeastern Conference matchup, this one should be all about the defense. Both the Bulldogs’ and the Rolling Tide’s defense rank in the Top 25, with Alabama’s being the best in the country. UGA’s, though, perhaps pressures the quarterback better — linebacker Jarvis Jones ranks fourth in the country with 10.5 sacks. The key, then, becomes frustrating quarterback A.J. McCarron, who has been almost mistake-free this season. The only game he’s thrown any interceptions in: the Crimson Tide’s only loss on Nov. 10 to then-No. 15 Texas A&M.

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