Johnny Football: The Legend That Almost Wasn’t

Caleb Brasher —  Monday, January 7, 2013 — 2 Comments

Johnny Manziel was the best player in college football last year. I will accept no other nominations. He won the Heisman his freshman year. No one else has EVER done that, and I won’t even begin to look at his stats.

I don’t remember seeing a guy with his playmaking ability. And before you start posting clips of Tebow and Cam in college, I would argue that they were pure, athletic specimens. Granted Manziel is an incredible athlete as well, but he possesses something beyond just raw athleticism. He has a knack for the big play. He has the feel, for me, of an offensive Honey Badger. He just always seems to be there to make the big play when his team needs it. Hopefully, ole Johnny Football will do a better job at staying away from trouble (although some of his off the field issues already, even before his success, concern me).

This is what I really want to talk about though – Johnny was the best player in college football last year, but at the beginning of August, he wasn’t even clearly the best quarterback on his own team!

Throughout the spring, it was a four-way battle to replace first round pick Ryan Tannehill: Johnny Boy, Jameill Showers, Matt Joeckel, and true freshman Matt Davis. Though, the battle seemed to really be between Manziel and Showers.

But Showers was the presumed favorite throughout the process. Even after the Spring game, everyone seemed convinced that Jameill was going to be the man. Even one week before the announcement, people were still predicting Showers to replace Tannehill.

Sure he was the only one on that list to have any kind of FBS experience, but still. We are not talking about just a couple of average QBs duking it out for a spot; we are talking about the HEISMAN TROPHY WINNER!!! Shouldn’t that decision be crystal clear?

Finally on August 15, Sumlin announced that Manziel would take the first team reps up until the Louisiana Tech Game:

“Johnny has performed the best at this stage and we will proceed until the season opener with him getting the first-team reps.”

Sumlin said in another statement:

“My policy is simple really; the best player plays. Competition is a great thing and we need more competition at all of our positions. All of our quarterbacks have competed well, and I expect them to continue to push Johnny.”

It is almost comical to look back now and read these articles from when the Aggies were unsure of who their quarterback would be. It is even more enjoyable to look back and read stupid people’s comments about the future unknown quarterback.

Here is a gem from @v2the4:

“…growing pains for Sumlin and his offensive coordinator, Kliff Klingsbury…they were spoiled the last four years by having Case Keenum under center, but at tamu, not only dont you have a qb, but you only have one WR to count on right now in Ryan Swoope…”

Man, you look like an idiot.

However, More than any of the idiocy or madness that seems to continually swirl around Johnny Football, this is my main point: he won the Heisman, but he also almost lost the starting position on his own team. Had he not come back in the fall and listened to his coaches, we may have never gotten a glimpse at the phenomenon that is Johnny Football.

Here is what Kingsbury had to say right after Manziel was announced the starter,

“He was making some plays in the spring but he was pretty reckless with the ball.”

Kliff would also add,

“He just came back to camp and was making really quick decisions, protecting the football really well.”

He listened to his coaches and made some changes in being more cautious with the football. It appears that is what pushed Sumlin and staff over the edge to go with the redshirt freshman.

So I cannot help but wonder… how many more potential Heisman winners did not take their coach’s advice and ended up on the bench, never to take a snap? How many potential offensive record setters just tried to rely on their talent and remained reckless, so the coach went with the reliable veteran instead of the young gunslinger? How many legends just never got a chance?

Now I realize this is a unique situation. I know that Sumlin’s system provides a great opportunity for unreal numbers. I know that you would say that Johnny would have eventually gotten his shot, even if not this year, and we would have seen then, but I still can’t help but wonder, “What if?”

If it wasn’t crystal clear for Sumlin that he was watching a Heisman trophy winner practice right in front of his eyes, then I would venture to guess it could have happened to another coach.

I realize this is all speculation. There is no way to ever know what might have been for these lost Heisman winners, or if they even exist.

I could very well be completely wrong, but I could just as easily be completely right.


By: Caleb Brasher

Caleb Brasher


I am a grad student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. I have an undergrad degree from Mississippi State University in Communication Studies. I love anything in which a score is kept and at the end, there is both a winner and a loser.

2 responses to Johnny Football: The Legend That Almost Wasn’t


    Just an additional note: Johnny Manziel almost went to Oregon.

    Since, we’re playing the “What if” game, does Oregon win the National Championship with Manziel at the helm? (…If he even beats out Mariota)


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