AP FILE PHOTO
In this Nov. 23 photo, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel throws a pass against LSU during a game in Baton Rouge, La.
HOUSTON — Johnny Manziel isn’t sure if he’ll declare for the NFL draft next month.
But if he does he’s thought a lot about his legacy and how he wants to be remembered as one of the best to have ever played and someone who made a major impact for Texas A&M.
He’s made a pretty compelling argument for both. He’s a finalist for the Heisman Trophy again, with a chance to join Archie Griffin as the second player to win the award twice.
“To be a college football player in a skill position, that’s what you shoot for every year,” Manziel said. “So to get to New York and to be one of the best players in the country and then to be that person to win it, it’s a dream come true for anybody that’s grown up playing Pop Warner Football, that’s grown up playing middle school, high school football.”
Johnny Football is one of six players who will attend the presentation ceremony Saturday night in New York. Manziel isn’t expected to take home another Heisman after Florida State’s Jameis Winston burst onto the scene with a spectacular redshirt freshman season much the way Manziel did last year.
Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman in 2012 after setting numerous school and Southeastern Conference records while leading Texas A&M to an 11-2 record and a victory over No. 1 Alabama in its first season in the SEC.
The Aggies were supposed to contend for a national title in Manziel’s encore. But another standout season by the electric quarterback wasn’t enough to overcome a porous defense that was among the worst in the nation. The Aggies finished 8-4.
“This year we definitely had our ups and downs,” Manziel said. “We didn’t have a final record like we wanted to at the beginning of the year. But just the whole season and how it’s been, it’s been a ride.”
That ride for Manziel started when he was suspended for the first half of the Aggies’ season opener against Rice for what the school said was an “inadvertent” violation of NCAA rules involving signing autographs.
The quarterback was investigated for allegedly accepting money for autographs from memorabilia brokers, a violation of NCAA rules that could have led to a much longer suspension.
He shook off his early season drama to throw for 3,723 yards and 33 touchdowns and led the team in rushing with 686 yards and eight more scores. He threw more touchdown passes, had more yards passing, a better completion percentage and averaged more yards an attempt than he did in 2012.
He’s third in the nation in total offense with 368.2 yards a game and fourth in pass efficiency.
Manziel dealt with various nagging injuries this season and said this week that he’s getting better as the Aggies have some time off before facing Duke in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl on Dec. 31. His thumb injury is still bothering him the most, but he said it isn’t anything that would keep him out of the bowl game.
Manziel continued to spend time with quarterback guru George Whitfield to work on becoming a more polished quarterback.
“I wanted to come back and be a better quarterback, not just a guy who some people say is a good athlete,” he said. “I never wanted to be labeled as that. So to work hard with coach Whitfield multiple times this summer to put in the work I thought... to get where I needed to be.”
Left tackle Jake Matthews has enjoyed blocking for Manziel and said his ability to evade tackles makes his job much easier.
“It’s fun to watch him run around the field and see the things he does to the other guys,” Matthews said. “I just try to give him as much time as I can and let him make the plays.”
Manziel said he thinks he’s ready to play in the NFL, but the sophomore insists he hasn’t made a decision about his future. Most assume that he will leave College Station, but despite Tweeting that he was growing tired of the town this summer, he indicated that he wasn’t itching to get out.
“I need to take everything in to account,” he said. “I think you take that, how the season went. But more than anything, are you ready for the next level? You don’t want to go be unprepared for the National Football League or leave two years on the table. You don’t want to do that.”
“In the grand scheme of things it all comes down to making the best decision for you.”
Associated Press writer Kyle Hightower contributed to this report.MORE IN Sports Wire
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