DALLAS — When Johnny Manziel plays video games, if he’s to create a quarterback capable of winning the Heisman Trophy as a freshman, he’ll opt for these measurements — 6-foot-6, 230 pounds.
“I definitely didn’t make him my size,” Manziel said Monday in the first interview of his standout season. “Typically, I’d make him look like somebody like Cam Newton.”
Can’t blame him. Manziel, the Texas A&M redshirt freshman quarterback and Heisman frontrunner, has proved nearly impossible to replicate. Listed at 6-1, with his innate ability to scramble out of trouble, he’s the most-talked about player in college football. But before Monday, Manziel hadn’t uttered a word in public because of first-year coach Kevin Sumlin’s rules silencing young players.
So more than 100 media members eagerly called in to a national teleconference to get their first audio to go with all the “Johnny Football” they’ve see this season. He’ll meet with local media in person today.
As for that nickname that’s caught so much fire that the Manziel family is working with lawyers and A&M to trademark it …
“It was something that started to be thrown out a bit when I first got here to A&M,” said Manziel, who impressed Monday with his poise. “It’s something that’s funny, something that people here in Aggieland enjoy. It kind of fits.”
Manziel embraces the nickname, but still sounded a bit surprised about the fuss. He’s asked for his autograph and to be photographed every day.
“It’s extremely different for me,” he said. “I’m a small-town kid from Kerrville, Texas. I don’t see myself as Johnny Football. I still see myself as Johnathan Manziel.”
Manziel said these days he’s more inclined to be a homebody, more aware of his surroundings. It’s a maturity that also must stem from having been arrested in College Station’s bar district this summer for fighting and presenting fake IDs.
Since then, Manziel has rocketed to stardom, leading the Aggies to a 10-2 record in their first season in the SEC. Along the way, he only added to his emerging image by rescuing a black cat and for wearing a Scooby-Doo costume on Halloween.
Here’s what else we learned about Manziel:
• His left knee, injured in last week’s win over Missouri, is fine. It was a scary “tweak,” more than anything serious.
• Manziel’s father, Paul, talks with A&M’s only Heisman winner, John David Crow, at every A&M game.
• Manziel’s favorite plays this season include the winning touchdown pass to Malcome Kennedy on a corner route in the upset of then No. 1-Alabama, along with when he made a circle, even going backward, before rushing into the end zone in the rout of Arkansas.
• When he’s doing his scrambling thing out there, he said he’s only thinking “Let’s score a touchdown.” Fittingly, Manziel has looked up to the games of Michael Vick, Doug Flutie and John Elway.
As for the possibility of winning the Heisman — as well as the rest of A&M’s success this season — Manziel said he never predicted it going this far. He said outsiders had a list of things A&M wouldn’t be able to accomplish in its first SEC season.
“I don’t think I ever really envisioned how big the season would be for us,” Manziel said, describing the Heisman possibility as a dream.
“We continued to progress, and we really saw we could hang in this league,” Manziel said.
Johnny Football on Monday proved his coach right. Even with the Heisman so close, there’s no stage yet too big for Manziel.