The Austin Chronicle

The Day Johnny Manziel Split Town for Good

By Rod Machen, January 8, 2014, 3:09pm, The Score

As expected, Johnny Manziel has decided to leave Texas A&M for the National Football League. The decision, not yet confirmed by Manziel though it’s being reported all over the place, brings an end to a remarkable college career that transformed Aggie football.

The numbers speak for themselves: 20-6 as a starter with wins in two bowl games; almost 10,000 yards of offense in just two years; one Heisman trophy, the first of its kind to be won by a freshman.

Making his accomplishments more remarkable is the timing of it all. After redshirting in 2011, Manziel became the Aggies' starter not only as the team began anew at coach with the addition of Kevin Sumlin but also in a new league, the Southeastern Conference. This was the most change a change-averse university had gone through since women, minorities, and non-military students were made a part of the student body. The expectations were fairly universal: A&M would struggle in the SEC.

That didn’t happen, however. 2012 saw the birth of a star, as Manziel spent every week racking up yards and making headlines. By the time he beat No. 1 Alabama, he was a household name throughout the country and on his way to hoisting the Heisman.

2013 proved a different story, with no big awards coming Manziels way and more losses in the bank. Most observers blame a pitiful Aggie defense for some of this, but Manziel's fame and the excitement he created still paid dividends in Aggieland. Plans for a major renovation of Kyle Field were completed, and thanks in no part to the team's success on the field, the stadium got sold out before the first bulldozer revved its engine. The $450 million project might not have Manziel's name on it, but he's certainly responsible for a piece of its creation.

All of this success nearly never got off the ground. Like most Texas high schoolers, Manziel wanted to be a Longhorn. If they had offered him a scholarship, he surely would have gone. Then there was his legal trouble in the summer of 2012, when got into a fight outside a College Station bar and ended up pleading guilty to a misdemeanor. Fortunately, it wasn't enough to keep him off the field, and he won the starting job shortly thereafter.

That next summer proved just as volatile, as Manziel got accused of accepting money in exchange for signing autographs. The media storm in fall camp was intense, and the end result was a half-game suspension for the opener with Rice. Johnny Football had escaped the pressure again.

The Aggies will now have to regroup. Sumlin will be back after receiving a hefty pay raise, but he will have to find a new QB among blue-chip recruits Kenny Hill and Kyle Allen. No one expects Manziel 2.0, and that's probably wise. Record breaking quarterbacks don't come along very often.

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