When I first watched former Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel play against Louisiana Tech early during his redshirt freshman campaign, it was hard not to be impressed by the kid. He may have reeked of arrogance on the field, but it was easy to see past the fine print with his scrambling abilities and rocket arm.
Mind you, this was done by a scrawny 6-foot-1, 210-pound quarterback, who was spurned by the all-mighty Texas Longhorns‘ program. Manziel would soon catch the attention of everyone with his memorable performance against the Alabama Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa en route to Heisman Trophy honors, the first freshman to achieve the award.
The historic train ride through the college football world began to come off the tracks from that point forward. The Instagram and Twitter posts didn’t help, nor did his early exit from the Manning Passing Academy for “oversleeping.” Above all, Manziel’s biggest mess was with the NCAA investigation surrounding cash payments for his autograph. Still, despite the immense amount of off-the-field distractions, Manziel stepped up when his team needed him most, especially at Kyle Field against Alabama, completing 28-of-39 passes for 464 yards with five touchdowns.
He’s as crazy on the field as he is off, but you can’t blame him for the constant microscope on his everyday-life. In essence, he’s set up to fail based off the monumental expectations for him, but if his play at Texas A&M is any future indicator of his NFL career, he’ll be just fine.
Though the spotlight was not as bright before he even stepped foot on an NFL field, I see a whole host of similarities between Manziel and former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre. For one, their playing styles mirror each other. OK, so Favre did not have the type of blazing speed that Manziel possesses outside the pocket, but that’s because Favre was a prototypical pocket passer. What made him dual-threat, at least to the standards of the league then, is that he could extend the play adequately enough with his feet when push came to shove.
The arm strength is there for both too. Favre had a much faster fastball than Manziel, but either can fit a pass into any sort of tight window with relative ease. Plus, they were equally erratic with the ball in their hands, thinking too highly of their given passing ability.
They both aren’t big in stature — Favre was 6-foot-2 and weighed 222 pounds — opening themselves up to vicious hit after vicious hit, but they don’t quit. Favre was the biggest competitor you would find within any professional league, and the stats prove it. The Southern Miss product started an NFL-record 297 contests from 1992 to 2010.
Manziel’s fierce nature is almost identical. He was seen getting into the face of Mike Evans against Duke in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl after the wideout was not playing up to his potential. He wears his heart on his sleeve, and he’ll do anything humanly possible, as seen in his acrobatic, non-scripted moves, to guide his team to victory.
What’s most sad about the comparison is Favre and Manziel’s off-the-field actions. Favre was addicted to painkillers during the late 90s and was a rockstar when he wasn’t torching defenders on Sunday. He was the life of party, similarly to Manziel. They enjoyed themselves as much on the field as they did off. For Favre, resorting to painkillers was the price he had to pay for taking a beating every week. The injuries mounted and the pain followed.
There hasn’t been any sign of addiction by Manziel yet, and hopefully it stays that way, but it only makes sense for a college student who faces the amount of scrutiny that Manziel does to have a few too many drinks than he is suppose to at a social gathering.
I’m not saying Manziel is going to be a future Hall of Famer; heck, he may even be a bust. But, the lineage is there for the Tyler, Texas native to succeed at the next level — to what extent remains to be seen.