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Johnny be good

Mark Doré: He's not perfect, he's not even close, but he's ours

Published: Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 15:01

Johnny Manziel

Tanner Garza

New Yorkers have a short memory. Johnny Manziel's name did not pass among the population of New York for long ­– the Heisman Trophy, after all, however rare it may be for patrons of Kyle Field, is awarded every year. Johnny Football displaced the bright socks of Robert Griffin III, who displaced the loud smile of Cam Newton. It is cyclical. Athletes of Manziel's age flare brightly and fade.

But for the briefest of times, for someone walking at street level of Times Square, the biggest face in the world belonged to Johnny Manziel. Try to say that about any other A&M figure, ever.

Maybe you don’t wish him upon your daughter. Maybe he parties too much or too publicly. Maybe if you handed the A&M brass a blank slate and asked them to craft the perfect spokesman for the University, they would come back with someone who stays out of bar fights or who hides his face from prying cameras rather than one who grins back from inside a Scooby Doo costume.

Do I condone all of Johnny's off-field escapades? Probably not. My instincts tell me he might be too young for all this and maybe it's getting to his head. How could one person, I ask, deal with an escalation in name-recognition like the one Manziel has undergone in this past year? Look how his Twitter following has ballooned, for example. Unknowns don’t go on Letterman and Leno. I have a feeling, though, that he will prove me wrong. Like he has already done more times than I can count.

A&M has tried the subdued, old-fashioned, respectful approach. Photos as undignified as those that have surfaced of Manziel would never have come out with Ryan Tannehill, Jerrod Johnson or any of a host of recent Aggie figureheads, a list here limited to athletes for the sake of argument. Many of them might not have been seen at a Flo Rida concert or at an Oklahoma casino flashing wads of cash. We can speculate on that all we want, but none of them won a Heisman Trophy.

Because the Twitter proliferation is a recent phenomenon, few would have seen any such photos even supposing they had been taken. Fewer would have cared. Since when is A&M’s quarterback a national figure? Forgive me if I’m overly lowering my standards, but so far he’s been wearing pants in every leaked photo and that’s more than can be said of more than a few Disney icons.

In a piece following his Heisman acceptance, I wrote that 'Johnny Manziel is the University.' I wish I hadn't phrased it that way. This University is too big to be encapsulated in the throwing arm of a sub-21-year-old quarterback from Kerrville. Please don't understand me as forgetting things as important as A&M's research and graduate programs. Those in and around Aggieland have known these things for years. How do you get the rest of the world to listen?

You stumble on Joe Namath with a Twitter account. You find the anti-Tim Tebow. You find Johnny Manziel, and you let him piggyback this University into the spotlight, right where it belongs.

He is not the University, as I had previously claimed. He might not even be the face, because how can something as big as Texas A&M have a single face? But he is the closest we have. He is too enigmatic and multi-faceted to boil down into a cliché like “all publicity is good publicity.” That’s a cop-out for immature behavior.

And the argument is warranted. We should talk about things like this, because national representation is important. He is the outsider’s access point to College Station, but is he a good one? Let’s not spend too long deliberating, though, because while we’re debating Johnny Football and his Heisman are ushering A&M into a new era.

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