Statement Game: How Johnny Manziel Silenced His Critics with Last Night’s Performance


Statement Game:  How Johnny Manziel Silenced His Critics with Last Night’s Performance

NCAA Football: Chick-fil-A Bowl-Duke vs Texas A&M

 

If yesterday was, in fact, Johnny Manziel’s last game as a collegiate quarterback then he certainly gave a performance that should silence his critics for a long time to come.

 

While most of the country searched for champagne and noisemakers on New Years Eve, Manziel and his teammates were involved in what ended up being a surprisingly competitive and amazingly entertaining Chick-Fil-A Bowl in Atlanta last night.  Manziel’s Texas A&M Aggies were the heavy favorites against an overachieving Duke Blue Devils team that had its best season in program history but had recently been embarrassed 45-7 in the ACC Championship Game against Florida State.  By all accounts, this should have been an easy win for Texas A&M.

 

Somebody forgot to tell Duke.

 

The Blue Devils came out on fire, scoring touchdowns on their first five possessions to jump out to a 38-17 halftime lead.  Texas A&M’s much maligned defense lived up to that reputation by giving up 661 yards to Duke and the second half quickly became a shootout with Manziel leading a furious A&M comeback.  For a time, it appeared that the last team to score would win the game.  However, Duke’s quarterback Anthony Boone threw two late interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown with 3:30 left that gave A&M its first lead of the game.  His last interception sealed the win for A&M in what ended up giving the Aggies enough to hold on for a 52-48 victory.

 

On the field, Johnny Manziel had a great game with 382 yards passing, 4 passing TDs, and another TD on the ground to earn game MVP honors.  However, it was his actions on the sideline that gave us a different look at Manziel.  Throughout A&M’s comeback there was one constant:  Manziel firing up his teammates.  He pulled aside star receiver Mike Evans in the first-half after Evans got his second unsportsmanlike penalty to talk to him.  He huddled with his offense on the bench and got them riled up.  He raised his arms to the crowd to pump them up.  After the game Manziel said, “I was in a zone I haven’t been in before.  Ever.  I just wanted this game.”

 

After the game, Manziel was asked about his future plans as to whether he would declare for the NFL draft.  Manziel refused to answer that question and instead focused his answers on the game he had just played.  He praised his teammates for the way they fought back and said how proud he was of them for not giving up.  The Johnny Manziel that answered those questions was a young man who had come a long ways from the first game of the season where he received an unsportsmanlike penalty for taunting his opponents.  What we saw from Manziel was someone who had been humbled by the game and who took his moment in the sun and used that moment to deflect the attention on him to his teammates.

 

Every so often there comes a college football player who electrifies audiences with his play, but may not necessarily be a star in the NFL.  We saw that with Tim Tebow, one of the five greatest college quarterbacks on all-time who fizzled as a professional.  The last two seasons, we have seen Manziel come from obscurity to becoming a Heisman Trophy winner and the most talked about player in college football.  There were a handful of plays this year in which he did things that no other quarterback on the planet can do and he did them in the toughest conference in college football.  With the eyes of the world upon him this season, he had another stellar year and singlehandedly led his team to a bowl victory in a game they should not have won.  Watching last night’s game, we saw how special a college football player Johnny Manziel truly is.

 

Manziel’s detractors will inevitably find flaws with his game as it relates to the pro level.  He’s too short.  He doesn’t throw the deep ball well enough.  His escapability in the pocket will be neutralized by bigger, faster NFL defensive players.  However, what Manziel did last night was show that he is the ultimate competitor.  Much like Tebow, Manziel wears his heart on his sleeve and leaves everything he has on the field.  Coming into this year, there were critics of Manziel who were unsure about how much he cared about the game and if he had the heart and determination needed to succeed.  What we saw with Manziel last night was a young man who singlehandedly willed his team to victory and then praised his team afterward when all eyes were on him and whether or not he would be turning pro.  It was a player who had reached the epitome of individual achievement in the sport, but who relished in the opportunity to share a victory with his teammates in a game that meant the world to him.

 

Johnny Manziel may or may not become a star in the NFL.  But any team that passes him up in the 2014 NFL draft will be passing up on an athlete with enough heart and determination to singlehandedly will his team to victory.  In this day and age, that is a rare thing and is something that should be valued.

 

The NFL team that drafts Johnny Manziel will undoubtedly value it and they will be rewarded for their choice.

3 Responses to "Statement Game: How Johnny Manziel Silenced His Critics with Last Night’s Performance"

  1. Sports Warp   Wednesday, January 1st, 2014 at 9:36 pm

    How do you think Manziel will do in the NFL?
    Here’s my thoughts: Thanks for the follow, check us out at http://sportswarp.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/no-reason-to-believe-that-manziel-wont-dominate-nfl/

  2. Brian Dethloff   Wednesday, January 1st, 2014 at 10:25 pm

    Incredible arm strength and poise, I think he will be just fine. Reminds me of Russell Wilson. Although, he definitely needs to get into the right system, because he won’t have the luxury to dance around in the backfield so much.

    • Sports Warp   Thursday, January 2nd, 2014 at 12:38 pm

      If the Texans take him first overall, it’s hard to think that he won’t fit in well.