Johnny Manziel: From Heroic Underdog to Universally Hated Overnight

Johnny Manziel

Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

As I sat on the couch watching my beloved Texas A&M Aggies take the field against the Rice Owls, a feeling of excitement washed over me. Football season had finally arrived.

I was not an Aggie fan growing up, a fact that changed when I registered for classes in the fall of 2005. So one could say this season is the most hyped Texas A&M has been since I joined the maroon and white family. With this excitement, and the allegations surrounding Johnny Manziel‘s autograph scandal, August 31 could not come fast enough.

On vacation in Southern California, I was shocked to find the Rice game was to be nationally televised, and on ESPN no less. Not only was Manziel suspended for the first half due to the autograph violations, but Rice has been a dormant football program basically its entire existence. They’ve only been to 10 bowl games in 101 years and boast a mediocre .440 all-time winning percentage. By most accounts, this game was expected to be a blowout.

ESPN knew exactly what it was doing. They know everyone (not wearing maroon Saturday afternoon) hates Johnny Football. Aggie fans wouldn’t be the only ones watching this game, a fact I got to see quite clearly on my Twitter feed during the game. One former ESPN employee even joked Rice had never had so many people cheering them on (definitely true, by the way). Witnessing all the hate spewed at my favorite team forced me to admire how quickly things have changed from a year ago.

Johnny Football was easily the most exciting player last year. He was fiery, intense, explosive, fast and just flat out good. It wasn’t hard to get excited watching him play even as a fan of another team. He trash talked, got into the faces of opposing players, picked up his teammates and was an incredible leader despite being a redshirt freshman.

Due to being unknown prior to the season, and coach Kevin Sumlin‘s rule of freshman not speaking to the media, Manziel remained in the dark off the field. As the legend of Johnny Football grew, Johnny Manziel stayed in the shadows. After winning the Heisman trophy, that changed in a hurry.

From appearances on talk shows, to hanging out with Drake, to sitting court side at basketball games and being seen enjoying the fruits of his labor (if you catch my drift), Manziel turned almost everyone against both him and the University. As we got more and more glimpses of the luxurious lifestyle provided to him by his family, the hate spread like a virus.

Those who praised his athletic ability and awed at his excitement last year can now be heard analyzing his touchdown celebrations and watching his every move between plays (and somehow being able to hear what he says to opponents on the field, because they all “know” what he said to the Rice players). It’s a complete 180 that has nothing to do with football, which is ironic considering he hasn’t changed much, everyone just started paying attention.

It’s the culmination of a hilarious timeline for Texas A&M who, as a football program, went from probable laughing stock of the SEC, to the lovable underdogs who knocked off Alabama and shocked the world with an 11-2 record, to now likely the most hated team in the country because of one player.

Normally the public would root for the underdog in a matchup that includes the No. 1 team in the country, but you can bet your bottom dollar most of America will be pulling for the Tide on September 14.

The plight of Johnny Football is a sad thing for Texas A&M football fans—prideful by nature—to have to endure. But there is nothing we can do about it except pray there never becomes a moment when those naysayers get the chance to say “I told you so.”

Related Links

Texas A&M: Kevin Sumlin Should Have Benched Johnny Manziel For Entire Season Opener

Johnny Manziel Continues to Shame the College Football World

Jeff Shull is an NFL writer for Follow him on Twitter, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

Around the Web

  • Paul Devlin

    The criticism of Johnny Manziel has gone way overboard

    • Jeff Shull

      I thought about including a similar bit about Tom Brady in this piece. Though admittedly, a lot of people hate him too. The difference I believe is they can at least respect him. Nobody really respects Johnny anymore

  • 49-Percenter

    He’s a punk.

    • Jeff Shull

      For what, exactly?

  • James Stockmoe

    So here’s my take on Johnny:

    ESPN, CBS Sports, and USA Today all got burned by poor journalism with anonymous sources. Lee Corso, among others routinely demonstrates an an anti-A&M bias.

    Since winning the Heisman, Johnny has been persecuted and maligned by the sports media.

    He signed too many autographs, so he must have received money. Otherwise, why would he do that? Promoting the sport, school, his name? Bad judgment? Perhaps.

    Taunting Rice? Ask #44, Nick Elder who Johnny was talking to on the field, and contrary to reports, Nick says Johnny said, “What’s up Nick? Nice hit.” Doesn’t sound unsportsmanlike to me.

    And, as far as the money sign, that was a call out to the rapper “Drake” whose (positive) lyrics inspired Johnny in the offseason while dealing with the intense media microscope.

    But then recall Johnny was earlier portrayed as a racist. Never mind his plethora of friends of all races who don’t believe it for one nanosecond.

    DeShazor Everett was called for a maliscious hit on a receiver. Yet, the receiver, Klein Kubiak, tweeted after the game, “Solid hit in my book, I’ll even support #FreeDeShazor. Good luck the rest of the year bro!”

    You won’t hear that on ESPN which Is intentionally trying to diss A&M… Especially after their autograph story was discredited.

    Now they are going after Coach Sumlin.

    But, how do you boycott ESPN, especially when they are televising the games and making Johnny out to be the anti-Christ?

    ESPN is actively promoting ABM, the latest:

    1. Tajh Boyd, QB Clemson
    2. Marcus Mariota, QB Oregon
    3. Teddy Bridgewater, QB Louisville
    4. Braxton Miller, QB Ohio State
    5. Johnny Manziel, QB Texas A&M
    6. Jadeveon Clowney, DE South Carolina
    7. AJ McCarron, QB Alabama
    8. Aaron Murray QB, Georgia
    9. De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon
    10. Marqise Lee, WR USC.”

    • Jeff Shull

      Well said.

  • John Steel

    I don’t hate Johnny Manziel. I hate A-Roid. I hate Gary Buttgolblin. And most of all I hate the talentless hacks who pass for sports writers these days. Who pen crap like this article, making broad assumptions based solely on the writer’s personal feelings and no evidence or facts. They can’t write and they can’t play sports. How the hell do they get jobs?