By Steven Keys

Johnny Football’s gotta’ go. The name, that is, and it’s about time.

The eligibility thing? NCAA will settle that question.

You’ve gotta’ earn a handle like “Johnny Football,” and frankly, John Manziel just can’t pull it off. As for the media fixation, what are ya’ gonna’ do?

Johnny’s a few accolades and at least 12 fluid ounces of good-judgment short of carrying off such a weighty moniker. And the Heisman-hyper who tagged him last fall, well, she got a little carried away.

The list of Manziel’s shenanigans steadily grows longer, seemingly every week this summer as he and his Texas A&M team take to the practice field on Monday.

The short shenanigan list:

Widely disseminated photo of a grinning John waving a wad o’ casino cash;

Settlement of criminal charges stemming from a bar brawl last year;

On campus shoving incident of a grad-assistant;

The sudden, unexpected dismissal from Archie Manning’s football camp;

His surrealistic appearance at a University of Texas frat party, apparently captured on phone-video, where he was ignominiously escorted off the sticky premises.

And on Sunday night came news that John is under NCAA investigation for taking big cash in exchange for autographs signed on BCS weekend in Miami last January (ESPN / J. Schad / 8-4).

Back to the nickname.

Teddy “Ballgame (Williams),” Donny “Baseball (Mattingly),” “Mr. Hockey (Howe),” nicknames lovingly bestowed, not just for big stats and Ws, but because, over time they earned the respect, the admiration of fans and competitors alike.

Johnny’s won the Heisman. That’s nice. His major competition in 2012: a guy who pouts (G. Smith) and a bad story-teller who looked lost in the big game (Te’o). The esteem John receives is on par with American Idol adoration: fanciful & fleeting.

I’ll give John this, he can always hang his helmet on that 2012 Alabama win. That was a biggie. A bit fluky, but still, a huge victory, nonetheless.

Now, Lou Saban’s son, Nick, there’s a Mr. Football in our time.

So if Johnny Football’s out, what’s in for this guy, name-wise?

The possibilities:

Johnny on the Spot: Absolutely. Manziel’s showing up in all kinds of places, anywhere someone will listen to his chatter and hand him a frosty cold one.

Johnny Come Lately: Late to a party, first to leave (UT). It should get him booed outta’ A&M. It won’t. Johnny’s got game.

Johnny Turk (1916 (Lawrence of Arabia));

Johnny Fabulous (“Ted“ Breaking Bad)? In his own mind;

Johnny Eager (Rob Taylor ‘41): He’s eager to hook ‘em horns;

Johnny O’Clock (Dick Powell ‘47): Reads it on the field, off, he needs a big-dial watch;

Johnny One Note (Rodgers & Hart ‘37): Same ol,’ same ol’ for JM;

Johnny Rocco (Ed G. Robinson, Key Largo ‘48): We hope not.

Can Johnny “B. Goode?” On the college gridiron, you bet.

If he plays in ‘13, John’s favored to win his 2nd Heisman, putting him in select company with the great Archie Griffin (OSU / ‘73-74) as only collegians to duplicate the feat. Skip Bayless, pre-Pengate, had him winning Heisman and team taking BCS title. Quite a haul.

Note to Skip: 1st and 10 was great, but no more ‘jumping the bandwagon,’ okay? First Tiger, then Tebow, now Johnny, enough already. And get 1st and 10 back, would ya?’ The ‘change‘ is tanking.

Aggies are sitting six-spot in Preseason Coaches’ Poll, with Crimson Tide at the top. And given the competition discrepancy in the college ranks, A&M can, with Manziel under center, bank on at least 6-7 wins and big numbers for their star tail-back / QB.

College ball’s different. It’s amateur versus semi-pro. There are stagnant clubs in the NFL, to be sure, but that’s largely an ownership choice. While some schools are diving-in head first (Oregon Ducks), many still refuse to vest too heavily on sport revenue, making plenty of contests easy to gauge, even in the loaded SEC.

Off field, John’s off-season has been one, long, on-going, Fugitive-like (PR) train-wreck, with nearly only his parents showing real concern for the lad (Dad: “He ate Skittles®, drank beer and won the Heisman” / W. Thompson / ESPN / 8-1).

Texas A&M might bear some blame for the troubled State of Johnny. Spanking the boy with a suspension might’ve been just what the doctor (would’ve) ordered for Manziel. Could $$$ in eyes of coaches and/or school elite have clouded their own judgment?

My first impression of John Manziel came watching him read Letterman’s “Top 10 List” shortly after claiming the big trophy: calm, composed and cold to the core. Manziel couldn’t wait to hit the streets.

“I’m adapting, I’m learning…but I’m not going to change who I am because the media says this or that or that (SI / A. Staples / 7-31).” Something tells me ‘Ryan Leaf rock-bottom’ might be where this man-child is headed if message doesn’t get through soon.

While we await NCAA report on pen-gate, and purchasers of Manziel autographs wonder about ‘authentication,’ since PSA and PSA/DNA claimed they “weren’t in the room” when John (or whoever) was scribbling (ESPN 8-4), regardless of how John’s halcyon college days finalize, all roads lead to the NFL, however long or brief, for a Heisman guy.

But John waves more red-flags than a Peking rally in May: the poor judgment, the immaturity, drinking, inconsistent statements, aggression (sometimes bar fights come to you), arrogance and loyalty issue, raised by concern over company he keeps.

NFL Draft Day may not be kind to this small-sized tail-back.

Most can appreciate a good time, sowing wild oats, abide some buffoonery, answering when the right opportunity knocks ($). Maybe John was planning on flying straighter once practice began, or maybe this autograph scandal will be tipping point, the short-sharp-shock to get John to cut back on high-jinx, account for his A&M obligations and salvage some draft-value.

We’ll see how he weathers the storm: Johnny Numbskull or Johnny Resilient? How his Aggies teammates & coaches respond to this Summer of Johnny, that’s another matter.

Johnny ‘QB’ Manziel, he’s a college star, but “Johnny Rotten,” he’s an unwelcome guest.

Steven Keys
Brass Tacks
Photo Credit: J. Manziel / 10-20-12 / College Station. / Shutterbug459 /

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