Every now and then, an athlete comes along that captures the attention of not just sports fans, but the general public. So big and well known these superstars are, they become bigger than the sport they play and even define generations.
Those who watched Babe Ruth play Baseball referenced him more as a mythical legend rather than a fat pitcher/outfielder who hit 714 home runs in his career. Footballers like Pele in the 50’s/ 60’s and even Ronaldo and Messi today are the face of the world’s most popular sport and will continue to be for generations to come.
And then there was a basketball player who came along that you have to mention when you speak about the decade that was the 90’s. Jordan.
To many they are heroes, icons and legends. They are a small, elite bunch that have that “It” factor that is only God given. The 22nd pick in the 2014 NFL Draft has as much “It” as you can get. That man is Jonathan Paul Manziel.
You know his story by now. Just a kid out of a small town in Texas that won a Heisman Trophy on beer and skittles, going out to parties, enjoying his college experience… yadee-yadee-yadah. You either love him because his style of play is much like yours in the backyard with your high school bros (Only with actual athletic ability) or hate him because he doesn’t say the “right” cliche things every athlete says and his confidence in himself is just too cocky for your middle-aged man taste.
Yes, those were shots fired at those guys who worship the pigskin every Sunday…and Monday, Tuesday, Wednes… You get my point, and their favorite player usually happens to be Peyton Manning. Original.
There is no discrepancy in who the lovers and haters of Manziel are. On one hand you have the haters (The guy I described above) and the other, guys like my bud Michael Wood, who can’t get enough of that party boy on Saturday night yet light you up on Sunday mentality that people still can’t get over with Manziel. Just a heads up folks, he is of age now, so we can let that go for another day.
I’m here simply to tell you that despite on what side you may fall, Johnny Manziel, whether he turns out to be an All-Pro Quarterback or All-Pro bust, doesn’t come around as often as you may think.
He captures audiences and media attention because of all the opinions out there on him. His college highlight tape is full of, “How did he escape that/still be able to score a touchdown on that play?” plays. Which makes him even more interesting because his style of play is the complete opposite of what works against NFL defenses.
The list goes on and the stage is set for Manziel to completely fail. Being a QB drafted by the Cleveland Browns ironically turns out to be your ticket out of the league, not into it. Just ask Tim Couch, Brady Quinn and Brandon Weeden how that all turned out. That poor town Cleveland, the last time they won a Professional Championship gas was under a dollar and smoking a pack a day was typical, almost healthy for you.
Their greatest hope left them in 2010 in the most cruel way, thanks LeBron. That was like if Luke Skywalker actually joined Darth Vader and the Darkside in Empire Strikes Back.
But maybe this is what Johnny Football needs most. His whole life he was able to use his talent and six senses in the pocket to run around even the best defenses (Bama, twice) in circles and score points in bunches in ways we only dreamed about.
Now he is the face of a franchise, and town for that matter, that hasn’t won something in a half-century and counting. His playground style of football has yet to be able to beat NFL defenses on a consistent basis, and I did mention he happens to be a normal sized human. Not 6’5″ 240 like Cam Newton who runs not around, but over NFL Linebackers.
Johnny Football, Johnny Heisman and now Johnny Cleveland faces as much adversity and criticism as any player has faced coming into the league. He could turn out to be Cleveland’s version of Larry Bird (Franchise changer, not basketball part) or just another Quarterback that failed in a Browns uniform.
I like Johnny Manziel, I hope he succeeds in the NFL. His charismatic and confident personality is a nice change of pace because few talk about his drive to win and work ethic that goes along with it. He is born leader yet far from perfect. He is an incredible athlete despite being small in NFL terms.
I won’t say that Manziel’s career will follow the path of glory that it did for Ruth, Pele or Jordan. The odds are too great and stacked against him, after all he is the QB for the Cleveland Browns.
Yet what makes the man they call Football so special, past all the media attention, is that he wants the uphill climb with the odds against him and embraces the challenge ahead as a way to only get better.
That’s something you can’t teach in your backyard.