Johnny Football has Aggies riding high in SEC


Johnny Football has Aggies riding high in SEC

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) In his Hill Country hometown of Kerrville, Texas, Johnny Football never would have been known by such a specific nickname.

Johnny Manziel could also have been Johnny Baseball, maybe Johnny Golf. After all, his high school coach, Mark Smith, says ``he could have been anything he wanted to be.''

Well, at the moment, the dynamic quarterback for No. 9 Texas A&M is the toast of college football after leading his team to a road upset of then-No. 1 Alabama, the defending national champion that many expected to make another trip to the BCS title game.

All Manziel has done this season is pass for 2,780 yards and 18 touchdowns and run for 1,014 yards and 15 more scores. His team is 8-2 in its first SEC season and, oh yes, Manziel is a freshman - just the second in Bowl Subdivision history with 1,000 yards rushing and 2,000 passing in a season, and he's got all that even before Saturday's game against Sam Houston State.

It's been quite a whirlwind few months for the 19-year-old Manziel, who had to compete for the job in camp and wasn't named Texas A&M's starter until Aug. 15.

His work at A&M is reminiscent of his performance at Kerrville Tivy high school. As a senior there, he threw for 3,609 yards and 45 touchdowns, and added 30 more touchdowns on 1,674 yards rushing.

``It's like watching him back in high school, to be quite honest with you,'' Smith said, calling Manziel a once-in-a-lifetime player. ``The things he's doing, they don't amaze me. Maybe a little surprising it's happening this fast against the SEC competition, but it's some of the same things I've seen from him in his high school years.''

Smith and Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin both say that one of the best things about Manziel is that he's unflappable. A perfect example of his poise came in the first quarter Saturday against Alabama. Manziel nearly fumbled the ball behind the line and the defense was all over him. He evaded the pressure and found Ryan Swope uncovered in the back of the end zone with a 10-yard touchdown pass.

``He's always in control,'' Smith said. ``He doesn't panic and he doesn't get frustrated. He just continues to play.''

Sumlin recruited Manziel while he was the coach at Houston, sending current A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury out to watch him play. When Kingsbury, a former standout QB at Texas Tech, brought Sumlin video of the game, he wondered why he even bothered.

``I saw the video and it was just a highlight tape,'' Sumlin said. ``I didn't have to watch very much of it. There's a couple of guys that when coaches come back and say, `Coach, you need to see this, can we offer this guy?' You watch a few plays and ask, `Why did you even show that to me? Why didn't we offer the guy when you were there?'''

Manziel passed on Houston and several other schools and verbally committed to Oregon. He'd always loved the school and was a big fan of coach Chip Kelly. But as Manziel thought more about playing there, he realized he couldn't be more than 2,000 miles away from his family, Smith said.

Smith helped him navigate that situation, and was impressed by the way he handled it. Manziel agonized over the decision to sign with A&M instead of Oregon, and Smith sat with him when he called Kelly to break the news.

``In the end, the young man made a decision on the things that he valued most and that was his family,'' Smith said. ``That says more about him than any play he could ever make on the football field.''

Sumlin doesn't allow Manziel to speak with the media because he's a freshman. It's a decision that certainly protects him, but also has left his work on the field to do the talking.

And according to those who know him best, he likes that just fine.

``He's kind of taken aback by all the attention,'' said Smith, who talked with Manziel the day after the win over Alabama. ``He just wants to be a football player. He wants to be another guy.''

As with most teenagers, glimpses into his off-the-field life can be found online. He talks about his affinity for country music, chats about upcoming tests and occasionally quotes Bible passages on Twitter. He also takes time for fun; pictures on the Internet show him at a party dressed as Scooby Doo alongside some beautiful and scantily-clad young women.

His Twitter account also hints that he might not be all that fond of being called Johnny Football. When someone mocked him for ``accepting the nickname,'' he fired back: ``How did I accept that nickname? When have you ever seen me use it?''

He also quotes 2007 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow as part of his profile on Twitter.

``I don't know what my future holds, but I do know who holds my future,'' the quote on his page attributed to Tebow reads.

After his redshirt season last year, Manziel entered spring practice as the front-runner to nab the starting job. But a tough spring left the decision up in the air.

``In spring, he was extremely careless with the football,'' Sumlin said. ``He would make a great play and then he would give it to the defense. He's done a lot better job of handling the football and taking care of it and still creating the offense.''

Manziel didn't have a turnover against Alabama's top-ranked defense and hasn't thrown an interception in three games.

As the Aggies continue to win and Manziel's profile has grown, so have the attempts to profit off the catchy moniker. Jason Cook, Texas A&M's vice president for marketing and communications, said the university has sent more than 10 cease-and-desist letters to retailers selling products with the Johnny Football name or Manziel's likeness in the last few weeks.

The proliferation of merchandise prompted Manziel's family to start working with Texas A&M officials to try and trademark Johnny Football.

``No one is looking for profit off the mark,'' Cook said. ``It's to protect eligibility and to protect his name and likeness from being exploited by third parties.''

Another byproduct of Manziel's success is the growing talk about the Heisman Trophy.

``It's like anything else that comes with winning,'' Sumlin said. ``As you win, those types of things come.''

Some have questioned why A&M hasn't embarked on one of those in-your-face Heisman campaigns. The school is certainly promoting Manziel for the award, Cook said, but noted that he's already being talked about across the country.

``Right now, it is wall-to-wall Johnny Manziel,'' Cook said about the media coverage. ``The awareness for us is already there. Our approach is, we need to reach the right people with the right message to make the right decision. Our efforts are targeted directly at Heisman voters and the football writers.''

No freshman has ever won the award, and John David Crow is Texas A&M's only winner, back in 1957.

Cook, who was instrumental in Texas A&M's move from the Big 12 to the SEC, talked often about how the new league would bring increased exposure to the school.

``Our No. 1 decision factor was visibility, and Johnny Manziel is benefiting from that,'' Cook said.

The Aggies can thank Manziel for some visibility, too.

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10 Training Camp Questions: How dangerous is the Brandon Scherff contract situation?

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10 Training Camp Questions: How dangerous is the Brandon Scherff contract situation?

The Redskins report to training camp on July 24th, and for the next 10 days, JP Finlay will count down the 10 biggest questions the Redskins face going into the 2019 season.

10) Will the Redskins develop depth on the D-line?

9) Can the Redskins count on Montae Nicholson?

8) Want better offense? Get more out of the tight ends 

7) Will Jimmy Moreland actually win the slot CB job from Fabian Moreau?

6) After losing Reuben Foster, how's the Redskins LB situation?

5) Will potential match production for Redskins WRs?

When a team picks in the Top 10 of the NFL Draft, folks around the NFL expect that player to become a Pro Bowler. For Washington, that exact scenario unfolded with right guard Brandon Scherff. 


Selected fifth overall in 2015, the Redskins took Scherff to play right tackle and anchor the offensive line opposite Trent Williams. That idea quickly faded, helped by the emergence of Morgan Moses, and Scherff moved inside to play guard. For four years, it's worked out great, with Pro Bowl selections in 2016 and 2017. 

Scherff is a mauler in the best sense of the word. He has great footwork and Redskins head coach Jay Gruden has called the former Iowa Hawkeye the best pulling guard in the NFL. Scherff is strong and nasty, words that won't win beauty pageants but absolutely win in the trenches of the NFL. 

Considering all of that, a contract extension for Scherff should be easy. Right?


Currently in the final year of his rookie deal, multiple reports stretching over the last six weeks indicate that the organization is way off in their extension offers to Scherff. He might not command the biggest contract in the league, but he will get paid like a top three guard. In 2019, that means a lot of money.

Cowboys guard Zach Martin makes $14 million a year. Jaguars guard Andrew Norwell makes $13.3 million a year. Scherff might not get to Martin's salary, but he will probably get to Norwell, whether Washington pays it or not.

That means the Redskins need to pony up the cash now because as each day passes, the team is approaching an ugly set of options. Scherff and his representatives might continue to negotiate during the season, but it doesn't make a lot of sense. Once free agency becomes in view, players tend to wait for it. Just ask Kirk Cousins. 

In fact, the situation between Scherff and the Redskins has some resemblance to the Cousins saga from a few years ago. 

In that case, Washington low-balled their homegrown quarterback in their first set of negotiations. From there, things went sideways, and the team used consecutive franchise tags on Cousins before he finally left via free agency. 

If the Redskins can't get a deal done with Scherff, the team could use a franchise tag in 2020. But that's a dangerous game of roulette. 

The time to get a deal done with Scherff is now, if not last month. Redskins team president has said in the past that deadlines drive deals, but with Scherff, there is no exact deadline. He can decide to stop working on a contract extension at any moment, particularly once the pads come on at training camp. 

The Trent Williams holdout might be complicating things a bit, if Williams only wants more cash and the issue isn't about much more than that. The truth is a Scherff extension would actually free up cap space in the short term, as his signing bonus would be spread out over the life of the contract, and some of that salary cap relief could go to Williams right away. 

Williams' status isn't the hold up between Scherff and the Redskins. Whatever is the actual holdup best be resolved soon. or the Redskins are beginning down an all too familiar franchise path.


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Baltimore Orioles Roundup: Anthony Santander has a huge outing in blowout loss to the Boston Red Sox

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Baltimore Orioles Roundup: Anthony Santander has a huge outing in blowout loss to the Boston Red Sox

Check out the latest news and notes on the Baltimore Orioles

Player Updates:

Even in a loss, the night belonged to OF Anthony Santander who went 4-for-5 with a homer, triple and two runs scored. Santander tripled and scored during the Orioles' five-run rally in the third inning. He then tagged Rick Porcello for a solo shot in the fifth that pulled the Orioles to within 10 runs at 16-6. It was the first four-hit game of the young outfielder's career. 

SP Thomas Eshelman had a rough day on the mound giving up nine runs (five earned) on six hits over 3 2/3 innings of work. The right-hander also issued three walks while striking out three. He struggled to keep the ball in the ballpark in this one, giving up home runs to Jackie Bradley Jr., Rafael Devers and Mookie Betts before departing in the fourth. 

Due to Pedro Severino's illness, the Orioles optioned C Austin Wynns to Triple-A Norfolk. He has played in 16 games for the O's this year with a .233 batting average, zero homers and three RBI in 47 plate appearances.


C Pedro Severino: Illness, Day-to-day

SP Dylan Bundy: Knee, 10-day Injured List

RP Josh Rogers: Elbow, 10-day Injured List

OF DJ Stewart: Ankle, 10-day Injured List

SP Alex Cobb: Back, 60-day Injured List

SP Nate Karns: Arm, 60-day Injured List

DH Mark Trumbo: Knee, 60-day Injured List

Coming Up:

Sunday 7/21: Orioles vs. Red Sox, 1:05 p.m., Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Monday 7/22: Orioles at Diamondbacks, 9:40 p.m., Chase Field

Tuesday 7/23: Orioles at Diamondbacks, 9:40 p.m., Chase Field

Source: Rotoworld