We Failed Johnny


Back in the Summer of 2012 I was working in the golf shop when a kid and his mom came in.  It was around 3pm or so, roughly the time I go into autopilot and don’t really notice much about the people that come in to play besides that they’re selfishly interrupting my down time.  The woman asked to play 18 holes with a cart, so I absentmindedly began the process of checking her in and ringing the rounds up.  She introduced herself as Mrs “Mansell” (or so I heard) and politely spelled it for me.  Standing behind her, almost in her shadow was a tallish kid, in better shape than I, but not so much that it was particularly noticeable.  His posture and overall demeanor suggested someone not quite come into their own yet, unaware of their place in their surroundings, as if they’d been abruptly thrust into a new world.  This is a not at all uncommon sight I witness in the shop as we frequently get freshmen that come to play, students so new to Bryan/College Station and college that there’s a good chance they get lost on their way back to their dorm or apt (I did for about three weeks before I could finally distinguish Texas Ave from University Ave).  His behavior however suggested the other sort of uncertainty we see, the indecisive stance between adulthood and dependency, most often brought on by a visit from parents when students realize that for as on their own as they have been all this school year, all it takes is for mom or dad to produce their wallet and they are right back in childhood.  They want to be seen as adults, treated as adults, but never hesitate to look down with gratitude at the financial safety net their parents provide.  I asked him what his name was, and as he stepped out from behind her and said “Johnny,” it took me a minute to realize who was standing before me.  This was the highly recruited, much talked about quarterback, who along with Kevin Sumlin was going to lead us into our inaugural season in the Southeastern Conference.  When I realized who I was speaking to, I rudely asked for confirmation with the sentence, “Hey, aren’t you our new quarterback?”  He smiled, proud and nervous all at once and said, “yeah I hope so.”

That was it.  That was the last time I saw Johnny Manziel in person.  That was the only time I spoke to him.  After that my only encounters with him were over social media and sports outlets, where thousands upon thousands of sudden “experts” all gave their take on our QB, determined to be the ruling prophet on his future.  People analyzed his playing style, handed down judgment on his character, gave predictions week to week on his winning potential and likely success in the NFL.  My friends and I couldn’t go a day without talking about Johnny, whether we were praising his latest unbelievable game, awing at the overnight notoriety and hype he provided Texas A&M football, or arguing amongst one another over whether his achievements excused his seemingly abrasive personality, (I actually had one person tell me they wished he had never come to A&M, that we were better off going .500 with Tannehill and Sherman because Johnny “diminished the reputation of the university and cheapened everyone’s rings and diplomas, yeah….what a tool amirite?).  I’ll admit I didn’t buy in to Johnny Football until about 2/3 of the way through the season, repeatedly saying I didn’t think he was the Messiah everyone wanted him to be, that he was still just a freshman and that we shouldn’t put all our eggs into his basket.  But by the end of the season I was team Johnny.  I wanted him to win the Heisman, I wanted him to get a national championship, I thought he could get a national championship, and when he went pro I wanted still want him in a Cowboys uniform.

Fast forward to 2016, where the most recent Johnny Manziel news is of his father and his attorney both publicly wailing about the seemingly hopelessness of his situation, desperately admitting to whoever will listen that they cannot control Johnny, that his struggles with addiction don’t seem likely to subside any time soon, and that they see no potential future for the young man any more.  Manziel’s father went so far as to suggest incarceration for Johnny was the only foreseeable solution, as if imprisoning him might magically cure his inclination for substance use.  Well call me an optimist, but I think there are better and more useful places for Johnny Manziel than a Texas state prison.  Call me judgmental as well, but I also think that us Aggies have wholly failed Johnny Manziel.

Since his announcement as starter, Johnny Manziel has been an electrifying member of the Texas A&M community.  Current and former students line up to deliver their hot takes on the former quarterback, ranging their “expertise” from how he’s the greatest football player we’ve ever had, to how he’s just a spoiled douche that deserves all the bad luck in the world because he doesn’t even go to class while I sit here and study my ass off.  True story, I’ve encountered dozens of Aggies who actively root for Johnny to fail.  They relish in his misery, and any sort of misfortune is karmic retribution for his transgressions again the scales of morality.  What is really unfortunate about this is so many of those people are the same ones who claim to embody what Texas A&M purports to represent.  They pride themselves on being Aggies, fulfilling the Aggie spirit, attending only the most Aggie of things such as The Big EventBreakaway, and Fish Camp.  Yet when it comes to a fellow member of our community publicly struggling, I have yet to see anything in the news about Texas A&M reaching out to help Manziel.  I may be wrong, there may have been multiple concerted efforts through the part of dozens of individuals associated with A&M to try to assist Johnny and help him succeed, but I have to think that if that were the case, Johnny would have succeeded.  You see, Texas A&M is a big, powerful, resourceful institution.  It’s a tier one research university that boasts leading achievements in multiple industries.  Surely the same college that built a hundred million dollar stadium can help one alumni conquer an addictive personality.

Back in February the school rallied together to write letters to a group of high schoolers who were accosted during their visit, insisting to these kids that their experience isn’t indicative of the university or its attendees.  Why haven’t we done the same for Johnny?  I know he’s not the only alumni struggling, I know that at a university of more than 50,000 there are bigger issues than whatever one person is going through.  But what I also know is he is still an Aggie.  I know there’s no better opportunity to show the world what it means to be an Aggie than for us to come together and help out one of our own.  Johnny Manziel still has bigger headline power than most current NFL players, and what a chance we have here to truly embody our ideals, and prove to him and everyone else that we are a family, and that fellowship extends beyond just Muster.

So here it is Ags, my rally cry for us to come to the aid of one of our own, to lift him above his struggles, and help him find the path to success.  Johnny, if you happen to read this, come back to Cstat, because this Aggie sees himself in your struggle, feels empathy in your pain, and knows that you’re capable of so much more than profitability for bloodsucking tabloids and ESPN hacks.  To everyone else, sign and share this so maybe Manziel will hear and feel what its like to have 100,o00 Aggies cheer him on again.  Gig ‘Em.

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