It’s been a tremendous few days for Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel. Being named the first freshman Heisman Trophy winner in the award’s history was refreshing to see, and that honor was well-deserved. The problem is that he’s going to be walking a very fine line for the remainder of his collegiate career, especially if he runs out his eligibility.
He’s likable, well-spoken and talented – immensely talented. College football fans are used to seeing awesome athletes rising through the ranks, but Manziel’s already considered among the elite. If he continues to succeed, the good will he’s currently receiving may turn sour, just like it did for Tim Tebow.
Not everyone was a fan of the former Florida Gators‘ quarterback initially, but his abilities couldn’t be denied. By the time Tebow left for the NFL, a large number of college football fans weren’t only happy to see him go as he’d dominated their news feeds and sports coverage, they wanted him to fail at the next level.
Some continue to transition their annoyance with him over to their Sunday football tradition. Change Tebow’s collegiate colors to maroon and white. Manziel’s future may be a case of déjà vu.
Following the 2012 Heisman ceremony, ESPN featured a 30 for 30 documentary on Bo Jackson‘s career. A superhero of an athlete, Jackson could do it all so well, he almost seamlessly invaded pop culture and remains there to this day.
Tebow obviously won’t gain the love Jackson did. Fans are too firmly entrenched in liking him or hating him. Manziel won’t be Jackson either, but the overall enjoyment of his place in the game by the college football world will be dictated by the same thing that led up to Tebow’s ill will.
How much of Manziel can fans take?
Urban Meyer and Florida became a known quantity before long. Kevin Sumlin has the potential to do some great things in College Station, TX, but the mystery of both he and his quarterback may end up being No. 2′s saving grace. The Gators have been a member of the SEC since 1932. The Aggies just reported for duty this season.
Assuming Manziel stays for two more years before declaring for the NFL, Texas A&M could topple the Alabama Crimson Tide in Aggieland or in the Tide’s backyard once again. They could even win the national championship.
That’s the beauty of the Aggies not being on top right away. Sure, their quarterback is, but watching the program’s rise would be far more palatable to the college football world than seeing Alabama win again and again despite how hilarious the aftermath is on local call-in shows, let alone Paul Finebaum‘s.
At this point, it seems that Manziel can do more good than bad for his overall image. The BCS will soon be no more, but knocking other SEC teams out of the new playoff will leave a huge chunk of fans happy. If he can do that, Johnny Football won’t just avoid The Tebow Effect, he’ll be praised whether or not he can be an NFL quarterback.
Brandon Cavanaugh is a college football columnist for Rant Sports and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter: @eightlaces