OPINION: Pay him or pay him respect
If the NFL is Johnny’s dream, the time is now — and he deserves our support
Published: Sunday, November 10, 2013
Updated: Sunday, November 10, 2013 22:11
I chanted Saturday for one more year with Johnny Manziel behind center. I yelled and screamed and I did so because no one is more fun to cheer for than Johnny Football.
But I almost stopped myself, and later I realized why it felt wrong. I would be thrilled if he and Mike Evans returned, but if I was Johnny (and I’m most certainly not — I’m pretty sure I threw my back out playing ping pong this weekend) I’d take a stab at the NFL 100 times out of 100.
Staying in school isn’t equitable. Not in the SEC, not in the current landscape, not without proper reimbursement on the part of the schools and the NCAA. Football is in danger. The game kills people — not, in most cases, during their time on the field, but later. Thirty years later when the ringing in their heads hasn’t quit. Forty years later when they have to scribble notes to remind themselves where they parked their cars.
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, CTE, is a disease you might have heard about on SportsCenter. It’s the degenerative brain disorder that stems from repeated trauma and concussions. It’s real. Players might not have previously realized the danger, but they do now. They know they have a shelf life. They know they’re risking life and livelihood with each snap.
It’s a decision. Johnny makes it every time he tucks and runs. He’ll make it again in the coming weeks, if he hasn’t already, when he decides whether or not to forego his remaining years of eligibility and enter the NFL draft. He’s small and that’s why he came to Texas A&M. Other schools didn’t know what he had.
If you think his size makes him unfit for the next level, you haven’t been watching. But it also means his body has a shorter expiration date than most. He’s playing for free, at the moment, and the average quarterback plays 6.6 years. With his size and tendency to run, it’s hard to imagine that number doesn’t scale down in Johnny’s case. Few NFL players can improvise the way Johnny can, but most are much bigger.
He’s already given us two years of play-for-free football. So when and if you condemn Johnny for choosing to go pro, you’re telling him he should sacrifice almost 20 percent of the duration of his dream and receive nothing in return.
Johnathan Paul Manziel is a junior sport management major. He has somewhere between 60-89 credit hours. Each week, he spends that many hours practicing, watching tape, traveling and playing. His time investment is on the field. It’s the career he’s best suited for at this stage in his life.
Degrees are great, but don’t oversimplify. Your situation is not Johnny’s situation. The clock is ticking on his chances to do what he loves for a living, and that’s powerful. The NFL won’t wait.
So we owe him a graceful exit. For the deck of trump cards he gave us for debates with t-sips, if nothing else.
A failure on the part of this student body to afford him the respect he deserves in his pending decision could end with the College Station air even harder to breathe for Manziel. Publicly, he’s been a great sport about it, but people have limits. If you spout off about the terrible decision he’s making by going pro, or about the way he has turned his back on A&M, or anything like that — you might find his limits quicker than you hope.
Divorce is ugly. There are countless examples of athletes so embittered by the way a team or crowd has treated them that they choose never to return. Bill Russell and Boston is a good example of an absentee town legend. Don’t be part of the voice that makes Manziel want never to spend another night in Aggieland.
I want Johnny to come back, but I want it on his own terms. If he’s taking snaps in Kyle next season, I’ll be loud. If the next time his face crops up on Saturdays is in the “Aggies in the NFL” segment, I’ll be louder.