Throughout the 2012 football season, with the scintillating wins and the crazy improvised plays piling up, the question had been frequently asked by Texas A&M fans, college football junkies, and media alike -- "Is there anything Johnny Manziel can't do?"
Well, up until Monday afternoon, the one thing that Aggie head coach Kevin Sumlin hadn't allowed Manziel (nor any freshman, per team policy) to do is speak to the media, so I suppose technically the answer to the aforementioned question was "Yes. He can't speak publicly to the media about football."
However, there is a Heisman Trophy to be won here, and with the campaign for that particular award being some odd lovechild of "college football meets presidential election," the Aggies unmuzzled "Johnny Football" on a Monday teleconference and finally allowed the media to hear that he has a functioning voice box.
The nearly one hour session consisted predominantly of softball questions from Texas media members with some national college football heavyweights mixed in. To give you an idea of how fluffy the questions were, if you're keeping track at home, the "Johnny Football" question scoreboard looked something like this:
Questions about video games: 4 Questions about his arrest last summer: 0
A few nuggets of interest from the teleconference:
On if he could have dreamt this type of season: "This season has been incredibly surreal and beyond my wildest imagination. But it's a true testament to how this team has grown each and every week, because without those guys, my individual success wouldn't mean anything."
On the Heisman Trophy: "It's something you dream about, sitting there creating all these video games when you're a kid and putting up crazy numbers. It's something you can only sit back and dream about. It's the biggest award in college football."
On his free wheeling playing style: "I never really intend to go out and run around and freelance. It's an instinct that just takes over. I'd love to take a three-step drop, get the ball out and not have to worry about running around in circles. In the preseason here, we heard all the things we couldn't do and had a list of things we couldn't do. It's something I heard and something the team heard."
Additionally, Manziel was effusive in his praise of his offensive line, the student body, Aggies everywhere, and the baby Jesus. (I added that last one.) In short, mission accomplished.
And in case you're wondering, here are a few questions that didn't get asked that I'd love to know the answer to:
1. Johnny, why are you shirtless on your mugshot from last summer's fake ID arrest?
2. Johnny, what name did you use on your fake ID? Did you use the same name on your Louisiana fakey as you did your Texas fakey? (Yes, Manziel carries a spare fake ID. I might vote for him for the Heisman based on that alone.)
3. Johnny, how does it feel to pass Billy Liucci in the "Gets Most Tail in College Station" race so early in your career?
4. Johnny, my colleague Travis Rodgers says you're not a "face man." Is that why this press conference is being done over the phone?
5. Johnny, last but certainly not least, the 50-something woman with the big cans who sang that "Johnny Football" song.....um, would ya?
(Actually, kudos to Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle for asking specifically about that video, not once but twice! Turns out Manziel hasn't seen it, which made my "Would ya" question moot.)
As I alluded to earlier, the school likely saw this session as a necessary final step in Manziel's campaign for college football's most coveted (and easily most flawed) award. Oddly enough, for an award that claims to be given to the nation's "most outstanding college football player" each season, things like likability, congeniality, and your "cliche per minute" efficiency all actually factor in with far too many of the voters.
Put differently, when you hear people saying that Notre Dame linebacker (and likely Heisman runner-up to Manziel) Manti Te'o stands a puncher's chance of winning the award because he will "carry the Heisman vote in the Northeast, Midwest, and West," then your award (a) probably has way too many people voting on it and (b) probably has way too many regional biases baked into the voting.
(That said, if the Heisman were unveiled using Election Night style coverage, with different precincts checking in, with each candidate having a cheesy, smiling avatar picture as the states take on the team colors of the leading vote getter --- well, let's just say I'd watch that. From beginning to end.)
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So the suspense is over. Johnny Manziel speaks English, and pretty fluently as it turns out. With "Johnny Football" sitting at -500 to win the award right now on the board in Vegas, that was about the only suspense remaining in this season's Heisman race.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.