Joining the SEC was as important to the bottom line and renaissance at Texas A&M as barrels of oil at $100, but neither of those could deliver what its super-competitive freshman quarterback brought to the table.
Johnny Manziel led a football rebirth in College Station with as much personality as ability, and it had a trickle-down effect unseen at A&M if not anywhere in the world.
Many analysts at the time credited the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback for the school raising a reported record-breaking $740 million between 2012-13, the years he quarterbacked the Aggies. According to reports at the time, the fundraising get was over $300 million more than its previous record year, and $600 million more than the university raised the year before.
The new Kyle Field was, indeed, the stadium Johnny built.
However, their hero best known as Johnny Football, who scaled the heights of Texas football adoration, now appears in free fall from his personal Mount Rushmore, his story of triumph becoming a tragic 30 for 30 storyline.
On Wednesday, Manziel surrendered at the Highland Park police station in response to an arrest warrant issued April 26 after a Dallas County grand jury indicted him on a misdemeanor charge of assault/family violence involving a former girlfriend.
After standing before a cinder-block wall to have his mugshot taken — full face forward, right profile — he posted $1,500 bail (no word whether he arranged bond or just pulled out his debit card and paid the full amount) and walked out into the sunshine.
He’s supposed to show up Thursday for a brief, routine hearing before a Dallas County judge. If his attorney and prosecutors reach a deal, that might be announced then. If they don’t, the judge could put his case into the trial scheduling process.
The maximum sentence on the class A misdemeanor is a year in jail and $4,000.
This is not the “Aggie way,” and A&M nation is wrestling with how to deal with its wayward son, who gave so much, but, by all Instagram accounts, is living among his demons and outside the confines of the school’s unfading honor code: An Aggie does not lie, cheat or steal or tolerate those who do.
A consensus has formed among Aggies that Manziel is lying to himself and cheating himself out of his potential in the NFL and as a vibrant contributor to his community and ambassador for the university.
And they’re done tolerating it.
“It’s a mixed bag of emotions,” said a former Aggies football player who spent several years in the NFL, but preferred not to use his name. “The Texas A&M that exists in 2016 does not look like it does or have the grandiose nature without him. He turned this place upside down and made it go from a sleeping giant to a relevant, real player in the SEC.
“I will forever be grateful, forever be appreciative as just a simple fan of the game.”
He paused while searching for the right words: “Extremely disappointed … sadness, for him, his family and the game.”
Time is everything for those few who get a chance at a professional sports career. There is only so much wax on the candle of a young man’s game.
For the longest time, most simply thought Manziel was addicted to a good time, but the issues now appear to be much more than that. Manziel’s display of defiance and stubbornness are less the attributes of the great competitor he surely is than more likely the traits of the disease of addiction, the former player said.
“I think recently, the vast majority of Ags have moved from ‘hey, he’s just a kid having fun’ to ‘he needs to tone it down’ to ‘the kid obviously has dependency issues and he has no desire or ability to change that,’” said Mike McIver, a Keller resident and A&M graduate.
“I love what he did for our school … that will never be forgotten. He’ll always be a legend, but I can’t support him anymore.”
McIver said he did what was unthinkable only a few years ago. At his 10-year-old son’s request, dad peeled off the wall the life-size Johnny Fathead poster.
It was a sad day, McIver said, but typical of an experience many Aggies are living these days.
“As far as I’m concerned, Johnny will always be a member of the Aggie family,” said Ben Goodyear, an Aggie graduate who lives in Arlington. “He’ll always have a special place there. But to excuse his behavior would not be appropriate either.”
All three are hopeful that Manziel’s story turns to one of a life of redemption and “be a good representative of what Aggies hope to be and want to be,” Goodyear said.
All believe Manziel has it in him … he’s an Aggie after all.
The former player said he is certain A&M would be “extremely forgiving and would welcome Manziel with open arms” if he turned his life around.
“I look at Johnny as almost like my own son: He’s bright, talented, smart, gifted, he says the right things when he needs to. I think there’s something psychologically wrong. Rock bottom sometimes is what people have to hit to understand they have a problem and crawl out of that hole.
“We all want him to overcome.”