Johnny Manziel is drawing plenty of praise as he takes the first steps of his NFL career.
It’s a stark contrast from a year ago when, just months removed from becoming the first freshman ever to win the Heisman Trophy, he was the subject of widespread scrutiny. His antics in the 2013 offseason were the source of much tsk-tsk’ing and tut-tutting.
Johnny Manziel became college football’s Tony Montana, the player at whom pundits pointed their fingers and whispered, there’s the bad guy.
In retrospect, it all seems a bit silly. Manziel was the living embodiment of a “sorry for partying” ethos. He sat courtside at NBA games, threw out the first pitch at MLB ballparks, dated models, visited casinos, hung with celebrities.
All that was missing from Manziel’s lavish existence was a spinning globe wrapped in the phrase “The World Is Yours” outside of Kyle Field. But give it time.
Manziel’s rise to the pinnacle of college football was meteoric. He went from a possible No. 2 on the depth chart with a minor rap sheet, to the face of the game. Every piece fell perfectly into place, from the rain delay that allowed the nation to watch his Louisiana Tech performance without distraction, to the showing against Alabama. Throw in a Scooby Doo costume, and Manziel’s profile skyrocketed in just a few short weeks.
The excess turned the Saban slayer into a sort of anti-hero–ironic, given that the same outlets who expressed disapproval of his embracing celebrity were the same who bestowed it upon him.
While his behavior might be deemed distasteful by some, Manziel no doubt became a favorite poster of college bros nationwide, plastered along side a Scarface banner.
Manziel could have faltered in his sophomore season with a nation watching his every move. But upon returning in the second half against Rice, Johnny Manziel was arguably better than during his Heisman run.
With trusted wide receiver Mike Evans playing the role of Manny, the first half of the 2013 campaign was Manziel’s own “Push It to The Limit” montage.
The final act of Scarface is dedicated to Tony Montana’s fall. Likewise, Manziel’s college career took its own unfortunate turn in the final act. A shoulder injury doomed his bid for a second Heisman Trophy and the defenseless Aggies suffered a lopsided loss to LSU and was uncharacteristically disjointed against Missouri.
An early deluge from Duke in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl set up the coup de grace, Manziel’s end-scene at Texas A&M. The Blue Devils were well on their way to leaving Manziel unceremoniously face-planting there in the Georgia Dome. But he took over in a way only he could, rewriting the script.
The Chick-Fil-A Bowl was a more fitting farewell to a college football career that should go down as one of the sport’s most memorable. Love him or hate him, Manziel played his role like few could. As he begins his tenure with the Cleveland Browns, reality is setting in: We’ll never see him play college football ever again.
Say goodnight to the Bad Guy. And much like Tony Montana, in Johnny Manziel we may never see a bad guy this good.