Johnny Manziel’s marketing and NFL potential: Golden shoes for a golden parachute?

Welcome to the Lockr Room. The youngest student-athlete to ever play quarterback for a major college football team, former Texas A&M star David ‘Moon’ Walker, provides his weekly insights on the Aggies and the SEC.

Follow David on Twitter: @davidmoonwalker and @12thManQb.

Lockr Room Legends Q&A: David “Moon” Walker, 12th Man QB

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I have to tell ya, seeing my man Johnny Manziel down there in Cajun Country during the Super Bowl did this ol’ boy good. Hobnobbing with the Duck Dynasty guys and my personal fave, Justin Timberlake, it just doesn’t get any better than this. As you may know by now, I was born and raised in Louisiana and committed to the LSU Tigers before turning Aggie – much to my Mom’s chagrin, God rest her soul.

My Dad and I did a lot of duck hunting together so when I saw the picture of Johnny and his “Pops” with a limit of ducks after a hunt in Arkansas, well, that was pretty cool too. My Dad and grandparents were from Green Forest, Arkansas. I’m assuming the NCAA checked to make sure it was Mr. Manziel who paid for Johnny’s out-of-state hunting license, and not some over-zealous owner of the, ahem, Dallas Cowboys.

Get on outta here, you NFL scoundrels!

Johnny and "Pops" after an Arkansas duck hunt

Johnny and “Pops” after an Arkansas duck hunt (Photo courtesy David Walker)

They’re starting to act like the “Dude Perfect” throws Johnny made through the net from the top of the stadium were rather impressive. Johnny likes hitting the Net. What’s even more impressive is that Johnny called his shot and simply whirled and threw. I mean, his eyes barely had time to find the target before the ball was out of his hand. Do you know how SMALL that window was? You don’t teach that, no sir.

No wonder Philadelphia hired the only college coach in Chip Kelly who, for a while there, was the lone guy in the country who recognized the value in Johnny Kerrville. Hold your horses there, pahtnahs.

Okay, all in good fun, right? Next we have Internet-gate, an “admission” volunteered by the star quarterback regarding his online status this semester at A&M. You see, he’s not actually taking any classes that require his presence in a brick and mortar building, sort of like taking tests with E-trade and Ameritrade without the pitfalls or windfalls. Online courses are nothing new. My favorite prof at A&M told me in ’08 that online courses were the next big thing. He told me he was worried about the profession of Professoring. I get it.

My daughter spent a year online and doing clinicals to get her Nursing license after getting her college degree in Spanish and Creative Writing. It took hard work and was tremendously challenging, but she achieved her goal and is now a Cardiac ICU Nurse — a rather important job. So I don’t fret when I see young people like Johnny taking courses online. It’s not cheating or slacking or any of these other characterizations going around. In Johnny’s case, it’s simply called “focus.” If you need to go receive the Davey O’Brien Award one week or head out to California the next to get your form back in line to throw those delicious heat-seeking spirals of his, it’s called preparing for your future while taking care of business.

Now, but with an Eye on the Future! That’s the motto.

He’ll be back in the classrooms in the fall anyway. There is only a handful or so of online courses available in his Sports Management major.

You’ve probably noticed by now that Johnny is pretty darned difficult to trap in any situation.

When the A&M athletic director called Johnny’s folks into his office for a little chat soon after he’d received the nation’s top door prize, they were probably thinking, ‘That’s fine, sir. You won’t have to worry about us too much longer’.

[Related: Manziel told reporters that he checks with the Compliance Office every time he does something]

I recall being asked by a local car dealership to do a commercial for them before my final season. When I asked around, I was told I couldn’t be compensated for anything while I still had eligibility. I couldn’t even afford a haircut in those days so this was pretty disappointing. When I went back to the dealership and told them a paid endorsement would cost me my eligibility, they said, “Well, David, we weren’t actually going to pay you anything!” Gee, thanks.

I say this to preface the fact that Johnny’s parents were smart enough and had enough foresight to determine that others would quickly try to make a buck off their son even before he hoisted the Heisman, while the quarterback himself would go penniless. That’s rather tough to swallow in this day and age so they created a company and hired an attorney to protect Johnny’s interests from now ‘til eternity. This act alone should be honored by the Better Business Bureau somehow since it’s the first business model of its kind.  It’s even more wonderful now that the NCAA has proclaimed “Winner Take All” for JMAN2 in the event there actually are any royalties/fines/payolas forthcoming. Paybacks are Hell, people!

I was the first player to wear the No. 8 jersey at A&M in 45 years when I became the starting quarterback as a true, 17 year-old freshman. The number had last been worn in 1927 by the nation’s leading scorer, Joel Hunt. It was truly an honor for me to be wearing such a famous guy’s number, although in truth I asked for it in Archie Manning’s memory, and not Joel Hunt’s.  I mean, I was from Louisiana.

1973 Texas Aggies Welcome Mat

1973 Texas Aggies Welcome Mat (Photo courtesy David Walker)

Anyway, suddenly there were No. 8 jerseys in every bookstore, sporting goods store and clothing store in Texas. Maroon “Welcome to Aggieland” floor mats made of cloth were sold locally with my image — a lefty QB wearing the No. 8 sewn on them in white  – during my freshman year.

Joel Hunt had been gone for almost half a century so, although it may sound cocky, I had reason to believe he wasn’t the driving force behind the sales.

All-America kicker Tony Franklin, who was just named to the 2013 College Football Hall of Fame ballot, donned No. 1 a couple of years later and the same thing happened with his. The only other player to line up wearing this jersey was our split end, Carl Roaches, but at this point everyone who was buying No. 1 knew exactly whose jersey they were sporting.

I sell Aggie t-shirts by the sea shore and I’ve paid royalties to Texas A&M for every last one of them. None involve Johnny, although I do have one that says, “The Ag 1-2 Punch.” I created this slogan before Johnny ever visited A&M, and now it just so happens that our top running back is No. 1 and we all know what number Johnny is, and together they truly are quite the 1-2 punch. But I don’t think they’ll come after me for it. Sometimes things are fortuitous and it’s already licensed and approved by the University. Lucky me.

Famous Aggie T-Shirts

Famous Aggie T-Shirts (Photo courtesy David Walker)

The point is, I can’t remember who the last player was to wear No. 2 in Aggieland. I just can’t, but I’m seeing Maroon and White No. 2 jerseys everywhere I go. During my high school years there was a popular song titled, “It’s a Rip-off.” This arrangement sort of is, too. We all know NUMBERS can’t be trademarked in any color, but really, name me another Number 2.

No, Tom Clements doesn’t count. (See Joel Hunt)

And how many folks would lose their shirts (pun intended) if Johnny decided to go with Number 3 next season in honor of transferred teammate Jameill Showers? Ouch. That could hurt some pocketbooks.

From what I’m seeing, the NCAA has the universities and their fans in a bind, but we may have a player here who just made the NCAA even more obsolete. Concessions must be made to the players, or the college fans who pay the bills will continue to get ramrodded sooner than later.  It’s already rather ridiculous for college basketball fans in the way players now zoom in and zoom out. Just ask Kentucky how well their new crop of freshmen are faring in Lexington these days.

While guys like me felt a sense of pride seeing their jerseys hanging on racks in stores, today’s player sees dollar signs.

We don’t want to lose Johnny Manziel after this coming season. Isn’t there anything that can be done? Can’t the NCAA allow the schools the power to license their players’ identities (brands) just as they do their own, and then pay the players a percentage? Most royalties are in the 8-percent range of the goods’ invoice prices, so how about a split? Wouldn’t that be fair, NCAA?

What if a poor guy gets in Johnny’s shoes and his family can’t afford to start an entire company the way the Manziels did? What happens when the family’s attorney adds “Agent” to his or her repertoire? It seems there’s a tremendous amount of money for our schools and players being left on the table and some risky business in off-campus handshakes.

Philadelphia? San Diego? Dallas? Really? Thank goodness we’ve got that insurance policy handled. That’s simply a no-brainer. After suffering a broken neck myself without any insurance coverages whatsoever, trust me, they can come in handy. It’s hard to pay the medical bills at 13-percent on all those credit cards it took to get it fused back together. Injuries definitely happen in sports and we must be prepared. Good strategerations right there.

Johnny Golden Shoes during Spring Passing Drills

Johnny Golden Shoes during Spring Passing Drills (Photo courtesy David Walker)

Johnny was wearing gold football cleats in Saturday’s first practice of the spring. We wore gold cleats in high school in our games. Our uniforms and our offense were way ahead of their time, and so is the Rocket Man.  His foundation is being built on solid rock and whatever the shoes represent or signify, I can only surmise they’re being worn for a reason other than being the perfect match for his feet. Perhaps a golden parachute?

Golden Boy.

Golden Arm.

Golden Feet.

Yeah, it’s gotta be the shoes. They top off the perfect ensemble.

Good for you, Johnny Football. Keep the groundbreaking going. Your brothers and sisters-in-arms are counting on you. And don’t forget, we’re adding 30,000 more seats just for you here in Aggieland. Gig ‘em!

The Aggies take a shocking spot in our way too early SEC Power Rankings

  • BBB Bill

    I like it, David. Great minds think a like. Hope to see you soon. Oh, and thanks for the shameless BBB plug!