"Bad boy" Johnny Manziel's halo was in full view Tuesday night when the former Texas A&M quarterback flew in from training in San Diego to run a Houston catwalk that traversed a gauntlet of social swells on behalf of a young cancer survivor. Unlike on the gridiron, Johnny Football's 20-yard dash through Tootsies with 6-year-old Aggies fan Charlie Dina had no defensive line to deal with, but rather a clutch of adoring, cheering fans with camera phones popping.
Front row and center was Houston Texans vice chairman and chief operating officer Cal McNair, who high-fived Manziel as he walked the runway. Houston Texans general manager Rick Smith and wife Tiffany were among the couples featured in the Valentine Day's-themed fundraiser. But making sure that there were no false messages sent, especially to those rooting for Manziel to be the Texans choice for the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft, McNair was careful not be photographed with the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner.
Manziel left A&M after the fall semester to prepare for this month's NFL Scouting Combine and private workouts with NFL teams. He's in training with private quarterback coach George Whitfield, who worked with Andrew Luck and Cam Newton in their draft prep.
It was a surreal evening with the A&M QB and a posse of rangers milling around a high-end women's department store.
"I was here for Charlie," Manziel said after taking the star role in the Dec My Room fashion show benefit at the popular West Ave emporium. "I've been in training for the last month in San Deigo and I flew in just for Charlie."
Manziel met Charlie through a cousin who had heard of the young boy's pediatric cancer, stage-four neuroblastoma, and the youngster's boy crush on Johnny Football. Manziel met the parents, Angela and Mike Dina both A&M grads, and became a Charlie supporter, wearing the Charlie's Angel yellow bracelet through much of his 2012 and 2013 seasons. In addition, Manziel has devoted time to and interest in Charlie and his family. The non-profit Dec My Room team decorated the young patient's room at Texas Children's Hospital in A&M style during his month-long stay in the hospital following a bone marrow transplant. Thus, the connection.
Word leaked out early of Manziel's appearance at the swank fashion show fundraiser so that by the time the lights went up on the program, a host of TV cameras and media photographers were in place at the head of the runway. Houston Chronicle sports columnist and NFL expert John McClain secured a front-row seat while KPRC Channel 2 sports director Randy McIlvoy hung out in the jewelry department waiting for his moment with Manziel.
Backstage after the fashion show, Manziel was friendly and gracious, posing for numerous photographs, signing autographs and even signing a few footballs. The guys in the dark suits with mini-badges and wearing grey Stetsons were members of the Texas Rangers, a security detail for Johnny Football. It was a surreal evening with the A&M quarterback and a posse of rangers milling around a high-end women's department store.