Since about the time he led Texas A&M to an upset of then-number one Alabama in Tuscaloosa back in November of 2012, speculation on where Texas A&M quarterback and eventual 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel might get drafted has been varied and the debate has been furious.
Well, now we will officially find out.
In one of the least surprising turn of events of the offseason, Manziel announced on Wednesday that he would be heading to the NFL, a conclusion so foregone that it feels like Manziel probably had it on a handwritten to-do list for the day yesterday, right in between "pick up dry cleaning" and "text Drake," and around noon, he merely crossed it off and went on with his day.
Manziel did take the time to issue this statement through the university in announcing his intentions:
"After long discussions with my family, friends, teammates and coaches, I have decided to make myself available for the 2014 NFL draft," Manziel said. "The decision was not an easy one, but we all felt this was the right time to make the next step toward a professional career. My experiences here and the support of this school, coach [Kevin] Sumlin, chancellor [John] Sharp, my teammates, my classmates and Aggie football fans everywhere will be something that I carry with me for the rest of my life. I'll always be an Aggie."
Manziel also penned a separate, more lengthy letter to Aggie fans through TexAgs.com, captured in this tweet:
Johnny's farewell to Aggieland: pic.twitter.com/nYOk0hkc3P
— TexAgs.com (@TexAgs) January 8, 2014
Finally, Manziel did anexclusive sit-down interview with Billy Liucci of TexAgs.com
where he reflected on his time in College Station and discussed in greater detail the reasons behind his decision.
Manziel's place in college football lore and Aggie history are both undeniable.
In two years, there was no player more prolific in SEC history, as Manziel broke Cam Newton's record for total yards when he went for 5,116 yards in winning the 2012 Heisman Trophy as a redshirt freshman, and followed that up with 4,873 yards as a redshirt sophomore in 2013. In two seasons, he led the Aggies to a 20-6 overall record and two bowl wins, a blowout of Oklahoma in the 2013 Cotton Bowl and then a heart pounding comeback over a 10-win Duke team in December's Chick Fil A Bowl. Perhaps more importantly, certainly to Texas A&M, is that Johnny Manziel brought a level of relevance to his university that was timed perfectly, given A&M's entrance into the SEC in 2012. There were certainly times when the white hot light of celebrity burned bright on Manziel, for the school's sake possibly too bright when he got wrapped up in an alleged "pay for autograph" scandal that ended up with Manziel serving a popcorn fart half game suspension in the 2013 season opener against Rice.
But with the occasional "Johnny Football" pain came a deluge of positive for the school, as fundraising reach heights heretofore unseen and plans for breaking ground on a significant expansion of Kyle Field were unveiled. Additionally, the A&M brand underwent a facelift, going from at best a middling sleeping giant with a mountain of unfulfilled promise to one of the most highly watched destination programs in the country's best football conference.
Do these things happen without Johnny Manziel?
Well, the stadium would have eventually been expanded, but probably not with nearly the swiftness and the unconditional positivity the Aggies feel right now. As for the television ratings and the branding of the school, the coolness factor, if you will?
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As divisive as the opinions on "Johnny Manziel, the NFL quarterback" will be for Texan fans over the next few months, that's how unifying he was for the Aggie fan base these last two years.
It was proven on the field that you can't really game plan for Johnny Manziel. You also can't plan for what Johnny Manziel did for his university. Much like anything, Johnny Football, it just happened. Manziel gave Texas A&M fans a confidence and the school an image facelift that could only happen through the perfect storm of right player, right coach, right conference in the boom period for television and social media.
Collegiately, there will never be another Johnny Football. Now, the great experiment begins. Johnny Football, NFL quarterback.
Starting January 2, 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.