With the prism of social media through which we can now consume the daily lives of our sports heroes, the question is continually asked "What would so-and-so have been like to cover/watch/root for in the age of social media?"
If you're looking for doppelgängers for old time athletes (a more lengthy list of which is probably another post for another time) and wondering to yourself "What would Joe Namath have been like to cover if social media were available back then?" (as my man Jerome Solomon points out) look no further than Texas A&M legend and 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.
Cabo vacations, coeds, Pebble Beach, and piles upon piles of yards, records, and charisma. An NFL B-12 shot, coming to a franchise near you (hopefully you, Houston)! It's Johnny Football...
When you consider all of the attention on his off the field exploits over the last twelve months, much of it practically begged for by him via Twitter and Instagram, Johnny Manziel may be the one highly drafted NFL rookie for whom the NFL media grind and tailing circus will actually feel tame compared to what he dealt with in college.
I think it's safe to say that there has been no more scrutinized, analyzed, and at times, criticized college athlete than Manziel. Ever. And yet, I think two things are telling when it comes to forecasting Manziel's ability to adapt to life in the NFL:
1. When he went into this season with a bigger target on his back than any player in recent history (or debatably, ever), he put up even bigger numbers than the year before. When he took on Alabama in September, he (along with wide receiver Mike Evans) almost singlehandedly kept A&M in that game, piling up over 500 yards of total offense. In short, Manziel was as big a monster in 2013 as he was in 2012.
2. I noticed this as I was compiling this piece -- I haven't written a thing about Manziel since the Alabama game. Not one football piece (which I think speaks to his greatness becoming commonplace and A&M's defense relegating the Agggies to second tier status) and not one "Johnny did what on Twitter/Instagram?!?" piece (which I think speaks to his personal growth and heightened level of self awareness). Even though he reminded us how old he was in seemingly every interview he conducted this past summer, we forget that Manziel just turned 21 this fall. As much as we want to impose our expectations on Manziel, maturity has its own evolution cycle for everybody. We all continue to grow and evolve, even as adults. Hell, hopefully, especially as adults.
Johnny Manziel didn't kill anybody. Johnny Manziel was, by all accounts, a great teammate who showed up big on game day. On the field, Johnny Manziel changed how we look at quarterbacks of his skill set and stature. Off the field, maybe he gave some future players a lesson or two through his mistakes, and maybe he actually learned some lessons himself.
I won't say Johnny Manziel is all grown up, because I'll be honest, there's part of me that doesn't want him to grow up. Immature Johnny was fun to cover and talk about. Football Johnny is a blast to watch. I hope he becomes a Houston Texan.
However it ends up for Manziel, there is no doubt he was the most talked about (and for me, blogged about) athlete both on and off the field in 2013, and in the end the title of King of Content for 2013 wasn't even close.
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Twenty one posts (half of them "Summer of Johnny" posts alone!) for Johnny Manziel, the 2013 King of Content for my corner of the Houston Press universe.
All hail the King!
February 13, 2013: Johnny Football! 2013 Heisman Odds Are Out; Why I Won't Bet on Johnny February 25, 2013: Johnny Manziel Files Suit for "Johnny Football" Trademark Infringement. Good For Him! March 8, 2013: Spring Break! Johnny Manziel Is Exhausted from Being Johnny Manziel March 14, 2013: Cabo 2013: Your Johnny Football Spring Break Update! May 17, 2013: Johnny Manziel Hits Batting Practice Home Run at Petco Park (w/ VIDEO) May 17, 2013: Johnny Manziel Officially Concocts the Most Creative First Pitch Ever at Padres Game May 28, 2013: Summer of Johnny: Manziel Says, "Get Your Guns Up!" June 10, 2013: Summer of Johnny: Zapruder Analysis Of Johnny Manziel's Music Video Debut June 17, 2013: Summer of Johnny: Looks Like the Haters Got to Manziel July 15, 2013: Summer of Johnny: Manziel Sent Home from Manning Camp for Hangover Dehydration July 16, 2013: SEC Media Day Preview: Johnny, Jadeveon and 6 People Who Would Draw a Crowd July 17, 2013: Summer of Johnny: Mark May Is the Worst July 29, 2013: Summer of Johnny: Adventures in Austin, Lessons in Trolling August 5, 2013: Summer of Johnny: The NCAA Finally Comes Knocking August 6, 2013: Summer of Johnny: Johnny Manziel Las Vegas Odds, Real and Invented August 9, 2013: Summer of Johnny: Johnny Manziel's Lawyer Is Awesome, Wears A Cowboy Hat August 14, 2013: Summer of Johnny: Within 24 Hours of Each Other, the Best and Worst Johnny Manziel Pictures August 23, 2013: Summer of Johnny: Revenge of the Chancellor September 2, 2013: Johnny Manziel's Monster Heel Push Is Underway September 13, 2013: Johnny Manziel's Judgment Day: All Roads Lead to Wrestlemania (I mean, the Alabama Game) September 16, 2013: For His Next Trick, Johnny Manziel Will Try to Will A&M to an 11-1 Record
Starting January 3, 2014, listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.