Johnny Football shows talent and lack of maturity

Published 12:32 am Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Column: Notes from Nashville, by Andrew Dyrdal

Dear area youth football players,

Please aspire to be as great as Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.

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Just never act like him.

Manziel, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner known as Johnny Football, began his sophomore season at home on Saturday after sitting out the first half against Rice University. He was brilliant, completing 6-of-8 passing attempts for 94 yards and three touchdowns. But, as usual, it wasn’t the plays he made that had people talking.

Manziel was suspended for the opening half of the game after an NCAA investigation into whether he was paid to sign thousands of autographs.

The investigation was just one of many dramatic storylines that followed the 20-year-old this offseason. In July, he left the Manning Passing Academy early after being seen partying the night before, tweeted that he “can’t wait to leave College Station” after receiving a parking ticket and was videoed being thrown out of a University of Texas frat party.

On Friday, Manziel apologized to his teammates for his behavior, and on Saturday was given his first chance to win back the respect and trust of his fans, teammates, coaches and NFL owners and general managers.

While Johnny Football dazzled on the field, he also reminded us just how immature he is. If he doesn’t learn to be unselfish soon, he someday will be known only as Johnny.

I tuned in for the second half of the game on Saturday to watch Manziel’s debut with Texas A&M clinging to a 28-21 lead.

On Manziel’s second drive, he rushed eight yards for a first down before being leveled by a Rice defensive lineman. Manziel stood up, pointed to the defender and shook his head while making a signature motion with his hand, gesturing that he wouldn’t give his opponent an autograph.

On the next play, the quarterback threw his first touchdown pass of the season and ran down the field rubbing his fingers together, a gesture that typically means money.

After Manziel threw for his third touchdown early in the fourth quarter, he clashed with another Rice defender and pointed to the scoreboard. This time, he was flagged for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and was benched by his coach, Kevin Sumlin, who had seen enough.

Sumlin later told the Associated Press that those individual penalties are “not OK” and “are the things that can keep you from winning ballgames.”

Manziel entered his freshman season virtually unknown outside the state of Texas before leading Texas A&M to a surprising 11-2 record in the Aggies’ first season in the Southeastern Conference.

He is now one of the most polarizing figures in all of sports.

Johnny Football has undoubtedly worked hard to become one of the top college football players in the nation and can help his program contend for its first national championship in 74 years. His selfishness, though, is putting it all at risk.

So dear area youth football players,

Please aspire to be as great as Johnny Manziel. Just never act like him. And when you get into the end zone, act like you’ve been there before.

Andrew Dyrdal’s column appears each Tuesday in the Tribune.