As Johnny Manziel packs up his things in College Station and heads into the cruel world of the NFL, it’s time for the conversation about his legacy to commence. It’s a bit of a touchy subject for the most polarizing college football player of his era.
There isn’t really a doubt about his abilities. Most college football coaches and fans would agree that Johnny Manziel was one of the greatest college quarterbacks of all time. Sure, he slept through a morning at the Manning camp and he isn’t welcome at every University of Texas fraternity, but his countless spin outs and downfield heaves have left ESPN with a plethora of entertaining highlights for fans to salivate over and pundits to analyze.
Ignoring all of the “distractions,” how will Texas A&M remember the greatest quarterback to ever step foot in College Station? There is nothing spectacular about a 20-6 career starting record in college football. It’s definitely above average, but it isn’t necessarily elite. Two upper-tier bowl victories are impressive, but people don’t remember games that have little meaning in the long run, especially when the premier bowl predated the inferior one (sorry, Chick-Fil-A).
The Heisman Trophy seems like the obvious answer, and A&M would be silly not to have already made plans for a Johnny Football shrine in the newly renovated Kyle Field. His Heisman win was essentially uncontested. That’s not to take anything away from Johnny Manziel. He absolutely deserved the trophy last season regardless of who was up against him. There just wasn’t much competition. Perhaps, it was because Manziel’s play had already elevated itself to a league of its own. Manziel’s Heisman Trophy campaign translated into $37 million worth of exposure for a University that has lived in the shadows of its big brother for so long. It’s an infatuation with ‘big brother’ that Manziel has helped them escape.
But is there something that he gave Texas A&M that is more valuable than a Heisman Trophy? Could it be that the hope Manziel instilled into the Texas A&M fanbase in 2012 turned into expectations in 2013? As simple as it sounds, the difference between hoping to win and expecting to win is substantial. Never before has the A&M fanbase had the ability to really demand or expect excellence from their football program. Hoping to win allows for someone to cope much easier with a loss (see Baylor 1996-2008). Expecting to win completely counters that sentiment. 2013 marks the first year in a long time that Texas A&M demanded excellence out of its football team.
Texas A&M finished its second season in the SEC with a 9-4 record and only one resume victory on the road against Ole Miss. If you’d offered this to an Aggie fan in July of 2012, it would probably be welcomed with open arms. Instead, it was met with genuine disappointment. Expectations have been permanently raised in College Station. That is Johnny Manziel’s parting gift to Texas A&M.
Curry Shoff is a contributing writer for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter here: @curryshoff.