The sportswriting community is intent on destroying Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel’s draft stock. I am here to defend a man who has seemingly been advised to not defend himself.
Sportswriters and pundits have scolded Manziel for his antics and failure to prepare for the NFL. Yet he is doing the exact opposite.
In 2012, Manziel led his fellow Aggies to an 11-2 record in their first season in the Southeastern Athletic Conference (SEC). He set the SEC total offense record with over 5,000 yards. He defeated the future national champion, the Alabama Crimson Tide, on their home turf. At the end of the season, “Johnny Football” won the Heisman trophy. And Manziel did all of this as a freshman.
The entire season, however, was not supposed to happen. Police arrested Manziel last June after he showed police his fake ID instead of his real one. Ultimately, the head coach vouched for Manziel to the university, thus reinstating him on the team.
Following his magical first season, Manziel drew attention for his tweets. Numerous photos of him partying with celebrities raised concerns about his lifestyle. One tweet about his desire to leave school after he received a campus parking ticket led writers to say he was ungrateful.
This summer, he was kicked out of the Manning Passing camp for “dehydration,” or as non-spin doctors call it, being hungover.
In this season’s opener, he taunted Rice players, gesturing that he would sign autographs after the game.
What the sportswriters and pundits fail to realize, however, is context. Talk of Manziel being a poor sport seems arbitrary compared to the audio from the miccing of other college and NFL players. The curse words targeting the referees, let alone the opposing players, display a much more consistent and blatant disregard for sportsmanship than a couple taunts. Most attribute trash talk to being a part of the game. By this logic, so is the occasional taunt.
As for Manziel’s off-the-field behavior, sportswriters simply cannot claim he is not preparing himself for the NFL. Manziel is far from the first college or NFL athlete to party. That lifestyle is clandestinely present at every school, and NFL players are spotted at clubs all the time.
Manziel is not the first college athlete to have legal trouble. Just Google the University of Miami’s football team in the ‘80s. ESPN pundit Mark May is one of the outspoken opponents of Manziel’s behavior. As a football player at the University of Pittsburgh in the ‘70s, he was arrested for jumping on parked cars and later attempting to start a riot. The precedent set by college athletes, many of whom comment on the game of today, is not exactly spotless.
Let us also remember that Manziel’s crime was using a fake ID, a crime committed by college students at every bar across the country.
The most important takeaway here is that, despite his indiscretions, Manziel is actually preparing himself for the NFL. He executes his coach’s game plan beautifully week in and week out. He doesn’t second guess his coaching staff. He wins. He does exactly what he was recruited to campus to do: make money for the school through his actions on the field. Yes, he parties. But he leads his team to victory too.
Besides, this is the most I’ve heard of Texas A&M in my lifetime. Fine, the school can tell him to be quiet. But that message should be handwritten by its University president on weekly thank-you cards.
Brady is a member of
the class of 2015.