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Beyond the Boxscore

Heisman winner Johnny Manziel brings grandma jokes, hides his true self on history's door

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Johnny Manziel
Johnny Manziel is used to running away from the pack. Texas A&M Athletics/Facebook
Johnny Manziel
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Johnny Manziel looks like he came out of central casting for a 1950s football star. Squint a little and you could swear he's been lifted straight off an Archie comic strip.

It's an image that is not close to the reality of Johnny Football of course. Archie only dreams of getting as many half-dressed, buxom coeds drooling all over him as Manziel did in his rather legendary Halloween run. And you're not going to find many clean-cut cartoon characters who start the season of their lives getting arrested for trying to defend a drunken teammate who allegedly called a 47-year-old man a racial slur.

Manziel is definitely a little more complicated, a star very much of 2012.

But in his biggest moment — when he becomes the first freshman to ever win the Heisman Trophy in the award's 78th year, when he blesses Texas A&M University with Heisman dust for the first time since 1957, when he turns New York City into an Aggie's kind of town (for at least one magical Saturday night) — he turns back to the aw-shucks fairytale and tries to make it seem true.

 It doesn't matter if Manziel is really a freshman or one of the Russian prime minister's secret aliens. This 25-pound trophy belongs in his hands. 

If Robert Griffin III showed his true colors when he flashed those Superman socks in his Heisman night last December, Manziel largely hides his.

The 20-year-old born in Tyler, Texas and reared in Kerrville makes it seem like it's all Mayberry. He talks of playing football with his grandpa in the hallways of his grandparents house, setting up his best line of the night.

"Grandma, so sorry for all the things we broke in the house," Johnny Football cracks. Good delivery too.

Manziel goes on to list off all his offensive linemen by name. It's a nice touch, one that will be appreciated by hogs everywhere, not just Luke Joeckel, Jarvis Harrison, Cedric Ogbuehi, Jake Matthews and Patrick Lewis.  

His tribute to Joey Villavisencio, the Texas A&M offensive lineman who died in a car crash last December when Manziel was still already still very much a part of the team (he's a redshirt freshman who practiced the entire 2011 season) is even more touching. Anyone who spent any time around the Aggies at their bowl game in Houston last year understands just how hard Villavisencio's death hit the players.

Johnny Football also covers his Aggie traditions, waxing poetic about the 12th Man and ending his speech with a "Gig 'em."

OK, it's not RG3 from another Lone Star State Heisman night just a year ago. And 1977 Heisman winner Earl Campbell — who looks a lot better on ESPN than he did in Houston last month — probably isn't thrilled that the Aggie fails to mention Tyler at all. But no one is as charismatic and real as Griffin III.

Before this Heisman week — and its mandatory interview blitz began — Manziel was only allowed to talk to the media twice. After the regular season ended. In the same week.

Johnny Manziel's not about revealing truths, becoming bigger than the game or making staid school presidents seem cool (here's looking at you, Ken Starr!), anyway.

He's only about the games — and driving opponents insane. Nothing's different there on Heisman night.

If Robert Griffin III showed his true colors when he flashed those Superman socks in his Heisman night, Manziel largely hides his.

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o is sure he's the one who is in New York to make history. 

"I didn't come here to get second," Te'o tells reporters a few hours before he finishes . . . second.

Don't stress it Te'o. You're hardly the first to be left with an empty feeling after futilely chasing after Johnny Football.

Notre Dame's rock finishes with more points than any purely defensive player in Heisman history ever has before. And he still can't catch Johnny.

What must Kevin Sumlin be thinking watching one of his quarterbacks — one who came into this season largely unknown — win the Heisman out of nowhere for Texas A&M, just a year after many thought another of Sumlin's quarterbacks (the well-publicized Case Keenum) would have a chance to do it for the University of Houston?

Fate makes its own bets.

Johnny Football's Rules

There is no doubt Johnny Football delivered the signature play of the 2012 college football season, that no-way, bounce-off-linemen, lose-the-football, pick-it-back-up and throw-a-touchdown-pass scramble against Alabama. It didn't end up denying Nick Saban and Alabama a chance to play for the national championship after all.

But it's still a play that is liable to be remembered long after the Crimson Tide finish taking apart the overrated Fighting Irish in Miami.

As crazy as his offensive numbers are, Johnny Manziel specializes in moments. No one has more of them this season.

 Don't stress it Te'o. You're hardly the first to be left with an empty feeling after futilely chasing after Johnny Football. 

Anyone else winning would have made the Heisman a farce.

It doesn't matter if Manziel is really a freshman or one of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's secret aliens walking among us. This 25-pound trophy belongs in his hands.

Even past Heisman winners like Doug Flutie — still the owner of arguably the best single play in college football history — carry a little wow over Johnny Football.

"A little bit in the way he moves and his body language," Flutie says when Heisman host Chris Fowler asks him if Manziel reminds the diminutive quarterback of himself. "But I can't run north and south the way Johnny Manziel can.

"I had 20-yard runs. He gets some 80-yard runs."

No one runs quite like Johnny Football. Now you see him  . . . don't think you know him.

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