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Home | Sports | College / NCAA |

The 12th Man QB’s ‘Instant Replay’ of a Heisman Season (Part 4 of 4)


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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 was quoted on Friday in the Eagle newspaper in Bryan/College Station as saying, “You can’t stop this offense and you can’t stop the guy who is running it. This is the best A&M’s ever had. There’s no question. He’s just a combination of so many that makes him so unique, you can’t put a finger on who he’s like. He’s creating his own persona of what a space-age, new millennium quarterback can look like.”

“He’s just fabulous in every phase of the game. I don’t think we could have a better guy leading our program. And Johnny’s going to take us to brand new heights. My gosh, for three more years, if he stays healthy, and everything stays together, he’s going to be one amazing kid who walks away with every record there is known to man.”

“There’s no doubt. If I had a vote, he’d win the Heisman, hands down. I’m kicking myself in the butt for not going to Vegas earlier this year. He’s had the Heisman moments and he’s had them against the very best.”

Texas A&M’s Trademark and Branding Hawk-eye, Jason Cook, was quoted in an earlier article from New York as saying, “What we must remember is that the Texas A&M brand is bigger than Johnny Manziel.”

[Instant Replay of a Heisman Season >> Part IPart IIPart III]

Well, shoot, if he wants to play one-upsmanship with our own quarterback, it’s his prerogative. We’re just going to enjoy the show.

What’s great is how the entire SEC has rallied behind this newcomer in the conference. The support really speaks volumes, not only of the school, but for Johnny in particular. He calls opposing players by their names when they tackle him. “Nice hit, Sam,” he’ll say as they get up. You don’t find this in many players, those who’ll take the time and effort to know their opponents so very well. Along with his valiant play, his attitude toward his competitors has gained him even greater respect among his peers.

He’s won the Davey O’Brien Award as the best Quarterback in the country and was also named the first-team All-American quarterback on the Sporting News All-American Team. The only awards left are the Heisman Award and the long-awaited inaugural “I’ll Tell You When You’re Good” Award. I hand this one out personally with a standing offer to purchase a copy of my book and several cool Aggie t-shirts from NoBrag.com. (We can’t give this stuff away, you know. NCAA.) I can already tell you that my vote is in. Congratulations, Johnny Football. You’re Good!

Now, let’s get to the Alabama game, the one that shot the odds for Johnny’s Heisman bid from 20 to 1 to 8 to 1 — not that we’re keeping track. By the way, have I mentioned how much I love the uniforms we wore against Alabama and Missouri? Yeah, they made me a little nostalgic. Thanks, Coach Sumlin; great calls!

Post-Game Read for Alabama

DOWN GOES ‘BAMA! DOWN GOES ‘BAMA! WHOOP!

Johnny Manziel and Baylor quarterback Nick Florence continue to battle it out for the national Total Offense crown with Johnny, despite playing the Number 1 defense in the country, closing the gap between the two to 15 yards per game.

While the new storyline is “Johnny Football Manziel for Heisman,” there is another current situation that many of us only dared dream would become reality; “Alabama remains in position to win the SEC West by beating rival Auburn on Nov. 24, or by seeing the Aggies lose to Missouri on Nov. 23.”

That’s right; we’re the only two in the hunt.

Johnny Manziel poised and ready for Alabama

We played Saturday like the West Division depended on it, and it did. Johnny led the offense to 4 of 5 Red Zone scores against Alabama, the team that had led the country in Red Zone defense for most of the year and was ranked third going into the A&M matchup. The first three penetrations into the Crimson Tide’s Red Zone produced touchdowns. The crowd seemed completely unnerved by the quick-strike, Stun Gun attack.

“We weren’t stunned at all,” Tide linebacker C.J. Mosley said, with a straight face. “As a defense, we knew they were going to make plays, that’s what their offense depends on. They got a great quarterback; they got a great running back. We just have to settle down and play Alabama football.”

First there’s business to be taken care of here in 12th Man Stadium, and that is Sam Houston State and Missouri. I’ve yet to see us come out of the tunnel not ready to play, so there is no reason to start fretting now. As I said after our SMU game about Johnny Manziel, stop critiquing and begin appreciating him. He will be gone in a flash, much too soon. It’s all in front of him, us and our football team.

Winning a three-game road swing for the first time since ’75 would normally be a strong enough statement, but to top it off by whipping the defending champions on their own home turf, well, that’s just darn near a Mission Impossible that we just accomplished. Inside four magical downs of defense, after surrendering the bomb a play earlier that would surely seal our collective fates, all eras would instantaneously become irrelevant to the NOW that is occurring.

Like Coach says, “No moment is too big.” I can’t tell you how important it is to hear and feel this on a football team. The classiest and the smartest thing this head coach and his offensive coordinator have done is simply allow Johnny Manziel to lead. There are a lot of coaches whose egos don’t allow this. We’re very fortunate.

A little dipsy-doodle turns into a touchdown pass

Our goal now is to finish at least in the Top 5, a feat not accomplished at Texas A&M since 1956 with Bear Bryant’s near perfect 9-0-1 squad. Adding only seven Top 10 finishes since then has left the school hungry for more success –and thankful and extremely excited for this opportunity.

“Whoop!”

Pardon the Swagger; we’re coming through.

Post-Game Read for Sam Houston

“Alabama’s just mad, and they’re going to take it out on Johnny Football and Texas A&M!” was Joey Harrington’s assessment on FOX Sports prior to kickoff.

Much like this 2012 version we’re now celebrating, by the end of the year media types were saying, “Of all the teams out there, A&M is the team no one wants to play.” Hail to these Ags — at least in the minds of many.

We realize somewhat begrudgingly that only the polls prevent us from being that team not only in the minds of many, but also on paper. Rest assured the case has been made even as we wade through a muddled mess of scenarios.

Well done, Aggies, but you can’t beat City Hall. What a tremendous comeback season, particularly with so many road games, a new staff, new offenses and defenses and only one spring training under your belts, and it was one which did not even include Johnny Manziel as starting quarterback.

But what if it had? If the spring isn’t good for getting your ducks in a row then teams wouldn’t have one, right? Regardless, against all odds this team refused to be negatively affected after narrow losses to two great, powerful football teams, and as a result they accomplished the near-impossible — impressively.

Johnny Manziel is a marvel to watch and can entertain you even on the lamest of plays. We’re not ALL spit and polish out on that field, you know. It all looks pretty, choreographed and synchronized, but trust me, there’s a lot of grunt work going on protecting both this young man and our end zone. ‘Third and shorts’ do happen, and then we go to our jumbo set … sometimes. And somehow sparks fly from this young guy regardless of the situation, the play call or the competition.

Johnny handing off to Michael on a 4th and 1

For instance, on his first rushing touchdown we were running the lead option to the right. The defensive end, Johnny’s pitch key, shot up-field and took away Johnny’s pitch back. Then a linebacker slipped through the line preparing to tackle Johnny for a loss when he cut up-field. Dead to rights, right?

I’m telling you right now, Johnny has to have eyes in his earholes because he did not give himself up and just cut up into the carnage. He didn’t surrender and just take the hit. No, he reversed back to the left down the line and out-quicked everyone to that end zone untouched. He scored an easy touchdown on a perfectly defended play by the Bearkats. Boy, that’s got to be frustrating! The poor linebacker who was about to tackle ‘Johnny the Great’ just stood there and watched, shaking his head as he went back to the defensive huddle.

Sure, it was only a four-yard touchdown run, but it would have gone 80 if that’s what was needed.

His second score came by ‘zone blocking’ to the right side by the O-Line, a fake to Ben Malena up the gut over right guard, and then a quick scoot around left end behind a great sealing block by junior Nehemiah Hicks. It looked like the old “loaded” option we once ran, except Johnny doesn’t need anyone out there with him to pitch to. This one went one yard and could have gone 99; it’s the same difference.

A minute and 26 seconds into the second half, Johnny played himself out of the ball game by completing a beautifully thrown 89-yard touchdown pass on first down to Uzoma Nwachukwu. His extra-point kick somehow sailed wide right and did not land in downtown Hearne, as was earlier reported. This attempted extra point will probably go down as the most inconsequential kick to never be forgotten in the annals of college football.

“Hey, you remember that day Johnny kicked that extra point?”

“Legend” will one day tell a different story. This is how “Legend” works, especially in Texas.

“Damn right, I do. It went right through the uprights and some guy caught it at the Hearne Post office. What is that, about 30 miles? Amazing stuff! That Johnny Football was a PLAYUH!”

As little as Johnny Manziel played and as well as Baylor played, I assumed Johnny had lost ground on Baylor’s Florence in the Total Offense race nationally. Not so. Johnny closed the gap to five yards from 15 as they still rank Nos. 1 and 2. This is excellent news, from a quarterbacking standpoint.

Besides the polls, players look at stats, and you can bet that everyone involved with these two offenses knows the score here. The “Battle of the Brazos” is only on paper this season but braggin’ rights are always of significant importance. I’ve stated in earlier articles that had Johnny stayed in games an equal amount of time as Florence has, the numbers would be adjusted in Johnny’s favor.

For instance, Johnny was on a pace to hit 699 total yards against Sam Houston as opposed to the 367 yards with which he was actually credited.

Now for the Heisman. I’ve never seen anyone having so much fun playing QB as Johnny Manziel.

Can you imagine sticking this guy behind the wheel of a Wishbone? No, me neither.

I’ve known Johnny’s high school coach, Mark Smith, for 30 years. Mark has nothing but the highest of praise for Johnny’s character, ability and leadership qualities. I give immense credit to Mark and his staff for allowing Johnny to develop into this ungodly scoring machine without enforcing common systematic hindrances which most high school coaches apply to their players and teams. Sure, you’ve got to rein them in and sometimes break them from behaviors detrimental to your team’s success on occasion, but the stallions, hey, you’ve got to let them run. And this Stallion can go!

Yet, even after the sloppy and unpolished play of the latest Heisman front-runner, Collin Klein, the second from the Big 12 to fall from grace (West Virginia QB Geno Smith was the other), we still find ourselves watching in horror as the talking heads try to gather up steam for anyone not named Johnny Manziel. I have to ask, “Why do voters feel they’re doing some kind of disservice to the game if they vote the Heisman to a freshman?”

The game’s ego will survive and after all, Johnny turns 20 next month. Isn’t 20 old enough?

It could be that Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel and Kevin Sumlin have come too far too fast for anyone to grasp. Sometimes it’s the obvious pill that is toughest to swallow.

Beat the Hell Outta Missouri. And don’t change a thing.

Post Game Read for Missouri

I’ll tell you right now how tenuous a career and starting position can be. I was in the stadium Saturday night when Johnny got twisted up awkwardly during a tackle and stayed down. I was in the third deck and could have heard Reveille moaning quietly in horror on the far sidelines. It was so very silent. I mean, I watched a referee succumb to a fatal heart attack at a high school all-star game and didn’t see this kind of reaction. The collective sigh of relief when Johnny stood up and walked to the sidelines was also noticeable — and then the cheers.

Johnny cannot go down, y’all.

This is part of what makes this award so different and yet, so important. We have for the first time a redshirt freshman leading the charge for the Heisman. He first showed up in the betting circles the week of the LSU game after throwing 59 points up against La. Tech. Even then he was an after-thought, but still a possibility. He was on the board.

In case you’re not aware, the wise guys normally recognize talent when they see it. Then the LSU game knocked him down from 12/1 to 20/1 and everyone figured he was finished. There were still 5 or 6 guys rated better than Johnny and this is when I decided not to take a trip out to the desert and take advantage of those odds. Oh me of little faith.

Well, lo and behold, after traveling to Auburn and Mississippi State and blowing those guys away, he and the Aggies made their third trip in a row, this time to none other than Tuscaloosa, Alabama for a date with Godzilla himself. The Alabama quarterback was now a front-runner in the Heisman race after his great drive a week earlier that had beaten the LSU Tigers.

The odds were not in Johnny’s favor but he suddenly had the Aggies ahead 20-0 before the first quarter had ended, and with a “goal line stand for the Ages” (Brent, don’t you just love that statement?) against the unflappable A.J. McCarron, they came away with possibly the most unlikely victory on the road against a No. 1 team in modern college football history. Heisman possibilities were suddenly back in gear out on the track.

Johnny Manziel eaded to the locker room at the half.

Still, although he is No. 2 in the USA in total offense and his football team has only been beaten by what are now the No. 4 and No. 7 teams around, Johnny was stuck behind a great kid at Kansas State who’s also a quarterback and was leading the new No. 1 team. All this QB had to do to win the trophy, being a senior and all, was win out. Then Baylor shocked K-St. and made this quarterback look rather pedestrian in the process, and BOOM; Up Flies Manziel! Up Flies Manziel!

All season long it was like being on the cover of Sports Illustrated for these Heisman hopefuls, from Geno Smith to A.J. McCarron to Collin Klein, and now on to Johnny Manziel. None of them could hang.

Johnny never flinched.

Johnny flourished, as he has in every game since LSU, including that stretch of 5 of 6 straight games as visitors. The guy went 6-0 on the road…as a freshman!

Then back inside 12th Man Stadium against Missouri, Johnny had his hands on the ball for 10 different drives and came away with 8 touchdowns and a field goal. They were long 70 and 80 yard drives, too — the kind we like here! It’s why we fair-catch punts back inside our 10 yard line! We love our length-of-the-field touchdown drives at A&M!

Johnny analyzing the Missouri defense.

Oh, and for the meticulous ones among us, I’m not counting the one-play kneel-down just before the half as a possession, but there are probably Heisman voters out there who are.

Let’s talk a little perspective now. Johnny is 19 and turns 20 in December, just as I did when I was a JUNIOR. If someone had told me I was too YOUNG to win the Heisman as a Junior, well, I’d have asked them to show me their eligibility requirements. When I was growing up nobody could play as freshmen, but no one had a problem voting a Sophomore the Heisman Trophy. If you played, guess what; you were eligible.

Johnny will be participating in his third spring training in April. He has already had two college football seasons under his belt, although like the freshmen who played when I was growing up, he sat out all the Varsity games his first year. He practiced and went to class and watched Tannehill play the games.

I’m not sure when the first coach came up with the idea of redshirting freshmen but it’s a great idea if your team can afford it. In my situation at A&M I became the starter as a freshman when I proved on the field I was the best at A&M and the best freshman football player in the conference. Johnny has proven in his redshirt freshman year that he’s the best and most exciting player in the country. You can forget the statistics; just watch him play. There’s not a running back or receiver who comes close, much less a quarterback.

As Charlie Daniels tweeted recently, there’s no reason a freshman shouldn’t be allowed to win it. ‘Cuz he’s the best there’s ever been…well, Charlie didn’t say that, but he’s easily the best A&M has ever seen.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9y2jtwS3SsI&w=420&h=315]

There’s one more thing about this quarterback you might want to know. He has played almost 600 official minutes this season, which is the equivalent of 10 games. Time-wise, he sat out two full games (120 minutes). Most teams have a game or two where they get to sit their starters but Johnny sat out eight full quarters. If Johnny’s 4600 yards are an all-time SEC total offense record, how do 5,530 yards sound for a regular season, before he’s even played a conference championship game or a bowl game? This would be Johnny’s numbers had he played 60 minutes in all 12 games; 5,530 total yards.

These are phenomenal numbers, but the real ones are quite impressive, as well…especially for a second-year Rookie.

Look out America! It’s looking like the 12th Shall Be First!!

Instant Replay of a Heisman Season >> Part IPart IIPart III

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  • Coach Jimenez in WA.

    I think Johnny is awesome, plays the right position and will have his day in that offense, but the 4-yr. leadership Manti Te’o has provided and what he has done in that locker room to help raise ND back to nat’l relevance just makes my non-counting vote go to him. If Johnny would have had a stellar game vs. LSU and would have been UNBEATEN like ND…..maybe. As a coach for 43 yrs., I guess I’m just too old-school to have a freshman win it over a senior. (PS-There are a lot of old-school voters by the wy for this award).

    • http://twitter.com/evelyngriffin Evelyn Griffin

      Hey Coach, I understand from where you are coming. But I just don’t think any of us can count on much of anything in the future–so I prefer Johnny win it now. :-) I don’t think a team could have been much MORE irrelevant that my Aggies, over the last decade or more (Fran and Sherman era). In fact, I sadly read many a thread on our Aggie message boards that asked the question, “When is the last time we were relevant?” I am sure Te’o has done incredible work in the locker room to help raise up Notre Dame; however, that’s not what I believe the Heisman should represent. It’s not the “Willpower” or “Character” or “Motivator” award–it’s the award for the very best player in college football. I think there are many deserving players–including Jarvis Jones of UGA, who I think is a better defensive player than Te’o. As for the freshman part, Johnny is 20 years old, has been on campus since his graduation from high school (early) in December, 2010, and is now a junior academically (after finals). If Te’o would have played games with competition as stiff as that in the SEC, I might agree with you. But given Notre Dame’s schedule, I just can’t see how he is the best player in the nation. Gig’Em!

      • http://www.facebook.com/anthony.campanella1 Anthony Campanella

        ND has a stronger strength of schedule than A&M and Te’o had record breaking stats including being top 3 in the country in interceptions as a middle line backer. Hands down , Te’O is the best player in the country.

        • http://twitter.com/evelyngriffin Evelyn Griffin

          Hey Andy. ND does not have a stronger schedule. http://www.teamrankings.com/college-football/ranking/strength-of-schedule-by-team.
          Also, If you look at Te’o's stats for this year compared to other defenders, the only category he is even in the top 5 of is interceptions, and he’s tied for second. As I’m sure you know, ND
          only played ONE top 10 offense (Oklahoma). The rest of them were 37 or higher. Notably, K.State played NO top 25 defenses. In comparison, look at Ndakamong Suh’s record from
          Nebraska in 2008-09…it was better than Te’o's. 4th in Heisman voting, behind 3
          offensive players.

          • http://www.facebook.com/anthony.campanella1 Anthony Campanella

            Nice Stats. After the way Te;O played in the BCS Title game I have to agree with you.

  • Pingback: Johnny Manziel left off SI Heisman ballott due to “pending criminal charges” - Gamedayr : Gamedayr

  • Pingback: Johnny Heisman gunning for 2nd bowl victory ever by a freshman Aggie quarterback - Gamedayr : Gamedayr


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