As Texas Aggie fans anxiously anticipate the results of Thursday’s NFL draft, Bryan-College Station residents can scarcely speak of anything else. Things were humming right along in town and the feel-good spirit was flying, until as one unexpected wrinkle from Sports Illustrated’s Don Banks was posted online May 7, 2014. Banks noted, “From what I've been told, Manziel's family is not rooting for Houston to be his NFL home, believing that staying in Texas will make his already challenging transition to professional football that much more challenging.”
Oh, who got the bucket of cold water and dumped rain on the Houston Aggie parade? Remember, Texas Aggie regent Anthony Buzbee made a substantial financial investment to decorate the highways and byways of greater Houston with his single-purpose billboards, a call to action to the Houston Texans to draft fellow Aggie, Johnny Manziel tomorrow night.
Banks continued, “Their (his parents') thinking is that Manziel will find it far easier to distance himself from his “Johnny Football” persona and focus completely on football if he’s not near the circle of peers who comprised his college-era partying crowd.”
These blurbs might go unnoticed and not particularly commented on, save for the fact that finals are over on campus, giving Aggie fans plenty of time to share their hopes for Manziel’s new home. And any nugget, inkling, vapor of a rumor or even rock-solid vetted comment is like Internet gold around the world of “all things Aggie.”
It seems that Banks just doesn’t get the Aggie family. First of all, wherever there’s a city, you’ll find loyal Texas Aggies. There’s a “fill in the blank with your city here” Aggie club all around the United States, and many outside the lower 48. Then you have the traveling Aggies who will fire up the RVs, the station wagons (err, SUVs) and cash in those frequent flyer miles to get to where their favorite quarterback is.
There’s people in every city who will present infinite opportunities to behave badly, and you can be sure that this is a problem every young college player faces upon entry into the NFL. One day some of them will still have their signing bonus and others will wind up on an episode of ESPN’s 30 on 30” about how sad it is that they didn’t have the right people helping them,
Why would anyone even suggest that Manziel should “distance himself from his ‘Johnny Football’ persona” when Nike paid an "undisclosed sum" for the rights to put the moniker “Johnny Football” on a tee shirt with the trademarked Swoosh? Take the “Johnny Football” out of Johnny Manziel and it’s like taking Garfunkel out of Simon & Garfunkel. You’d just have, Simon. Simon says, “Keep Johnny Football in Johnny Manziel.”
To be entirely fair, that reported rumor about what Johnny’s family may or may not have said, in public or in confidence, varies on the truth-o-meter as either a boldfaced fabrication or possibly a bored journalist’s conjecture, but Bonds claims to have an inside source. Well that makes everything different. Let’s just, for the sake of truth in reporting, call that item something factual that would bear up as a true direct quote, off the record.
That’s pretty embarrassing because, held up against the light of day in the crowd of candidates awaiting tomorrow’s outcome, no other dad or mom is on record expressing any level of concern about who might or might not pick their son for their franchise’s multimillion dollar future.
It’s just denigrating to Manziel, who is the guy on the field, the guy throwing the ball and the guy who hired LeBron’s brainiac management organization to start dishing up McMoney endorsements, Nike sportswear memorabilia. That’s only the beginning of ways to market and franchise, finally for Johnny’s sake, the legend that is the one and only Johnny Football. He's the family member who needs to speak and likely he will, at length, tomorrow night after the picks are final and it's all over but the shouting. And, his parents' being attributed to saying "that" just doesn't seem like something they'd do, but you know the social media whirl will just go on, facts or no facts.
What comes (back) to mind is the rather unpleasant memory of eight months ago, when ESPN’s Wright Thompson gave fans truly revealing insight into Johnny Manziel’s parents and grandparents, and their hopes, dreams, fears and worries for their young adult, who at the time was not yet 21. Rereading that article reminds you of why Don Banks might possibly be justified in writing up a story already re-swirling on Bleacher Report today, entitled “Johnny Manziel Avoiding Houston Texans.”
It would be most illuminating to learn what Aggie Regent Buzbee thinks of those stories, because he’s hosting one big Aggie-style wing-ding NFL draft watch. Plus, the official Aggie family position is to keep Johnny Football in Texas, as the people of Kerrville, Texas, couldn't emphasize strongly enough on tonight's KBTX-TV broadcast. Although the Dallas Cowboys will always retain the moniker, “America’s Team,” there’s the Jerry Jones factor that simply casts a big shadow over the shining light of the once-mighty Cowboys. But you never know how the draft will turn out, as the Kevin Costner movie highlighted, in quite an entertaining movie.
Last night on ESPN there was a tremendous documentary about all the expectations, hopes and dreams of how the very best college players in years gone by had every expectation of going in the first round, how they were angry when they didn’t, or how they were grateful and overjoyed when they did go in the first round, because outcome met their personal expectations. Talent, humility, grace, modesty, bravado, braggadocio, enthusiasm--those all go into the makeup of a professional football player, the unknown factor being the percentage of each that's in the mix.
And then there was the feel-good, eye-moistening moments when the young men who were drafted after 40 hours’ wait time were so very grateful to be chosen, for a chance to prove themselves, and see the names of those who were picked early and fizzled, and those who were picked late and skyrocketed to superstardom.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder in modeling, but on the well-worn Astroturf and professional football field surfaces, it’s what your arm looks like, it’s what your eyes see down the field, and it’s what’s in your heart to win a football game that is the actual measure of value. Manziel says he wants to learn more, keep growing, improving and winning. Plus, if he stays in Texas, his youngest fan, Charlie Dina, might be able to see him play more often. The Dina family is in New York tonight as Johnny's guests for the draft event. He's not likely to be distracted all that much when his priorities for the greatest day of his life (so far) includes children who look up to him. That's who the "real" Johnny Football is, underneath the hype and the flashbulbs and yes, the media kerfuffle.
Whoever drafts him will be thrilled to have him. And wherever he goes, distractions will abound, simply adding more to the legend of Johnny Football. One things for sure, the trucks will be gassed up, the RVs will be stocked and ready to roll, and the Texas Aggie family will travel to wherever Johnny is this coming fall. And that’s a fact.