ARLINGTON, Texas — Johnny Manziel stepped onto the Cowboys Stadium turf the other day looking like he'd just rolled out of bed.
His hair was messed up. His contacts were replaced by glasses.
“These late nights,” the Texas A&M quarterback mused, “go to sleep at 2, wake up at 7.”
As he talked during Cotton Bowl Media Day, he was surrounded — literally — by reporters. Cameramen actually stood behind him filming because, well, the back of the Heisman Trophy winner's head was better than nothing.
“I didn't know this was coming,” he said sheepishly of the media throng. “I probably needed to wear contacts.”
Mr. Heisman didn't think he'd be the center of attention at Media Day?
That aw-shuck-ness is just one more reason to love Manziel.
I know you don't want to hear this, Oklahoma fans. Your Sooners are going to spend the better part of three hours Friday night chasing chase down Manziel. He's going to create headaches. He's going to make plays.
And yet, it's guys like Manziel who make college football great.
Manziel is from Kerrville, Texas, a town of only 20,000. He is listed at 6-foot-1, though that'd probably only be if he was wearing platform shoes and standing on tiptoe. And up until two weeks before Texas A&M's opener, he was an unknown redshirt freshman competing for the starting quarterback job.
Less than four months later, he won the most recognized award in sports.
Now, he's Johnny Heisman.
“You never really know, especially with a freshman,” Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said of how his quarterback has progressed. “As things played out the rest of the year, you never knew that was going to happen.”
Manziel is an amazing story.
Now, there are some in Aggieland who believe I'm anti-Manziel. Heck, they believe that all of us at The Oklahoman are down on the guy. That's because none of the four of us who have Heisman votes picked Manziel as our top choice.
But I'm here to tell you — if I didn't like Manziel, I wouldn't have voted him third.
Heisman ballots, in case you didn't know, are write-in only. We aren't told who to vote for. We can vote for anyone in college football. So, voters have to think highly of any player who gets on their ballot. Voters have to think of them as one of the best three players in the country.
And Manziel has absolutely earned that lofty status.
The stats bear it out; Manziel passed for 3,419 yards and rushed for 1,181 yards, becoming the first SEC player and the first freshman in NCAA history to pass for 3,000 yards and run for 1,000.
The highlights bear it out; do yourself a favor and search “Johnny Manziel: Top 12 Plays of 2012” on YouTube.
The results bear it out; Texas A&M is a program transformed, winning 10 games in its inaugural SEC season a year after struggling to finish above .500.
Then, there's Manziel's personality.
He is soaking in everything that's happened since he won the Heisman. He plays golf with the Jonas Brothers, he poses for pictures with LeBron James, and he acts as excited as a kid in a candy store. In other words, he acts like any normal person would.
Manziel does things on the field that most of us can't fathom, and yet, he acts like an Average Johnny off the field, bedhead and eyeglasses and all.
Just one more reason to like the guy.
He is a nightmare for opponents, as the Sooners are likely to find out Friday night, but if you love college football, it's impossible not to love Johnny Manziel.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.