The Future Adventures of Johnny Football

Johnny Manziel is a legend. First, he won the Heisman Trophy as a freshman, leading Texas A&M to an epic regular-season win over Alabama and demolishing Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl. His exploits earned him a righteous gunslinger nickname, “Johnny Football,” and he was an American hero at age 20. But the word “legend” is reserved for larger-than-life personalities. Being a sports star isn’t good enough; you also have to be a wild, hard-partying outlaw. He got a head start last year when he got in a fight at 2 a.m. because of a stupid friend, got arrested, flashed a fake ID, and had a second fake in his wallet. Classic Johnny Football. This year, he could’ve listened to The Man and spent the offseason practicing diligently, but then he’d just be another quarterback. And in Johnny Football’s universe, “normal” is a bad word.

Instead, he went loco. He scored some sweet courtside seats to a Mavs game, smiling for the cameras and tweaking the haters. He shoved a grad assistant after he got a little too giddy for his own good when Johnny Football threw a pick in a spring game. He dissed his school’s town on Twitter because a man can’t park anywhere nowadays. He partied so hard at the Manning Passing Academy that he gave himself a severe case of dehydration and got booted from the premises by Old Man Manning. No matter, because he won an ESPY for best college athlete and made a national champion jealous. Then he turned up at a Texas frat party, where the bros threw beer on him and sent him packing, only to see him pop up at another UT frat party the next day wearing a Tebow jersey because why the hell not. He waged an Internet war, and won it by tweeting a picture of his Heisman.

You’ve seen the Dos Equis commercials for the Most Interesting Man in the World? That’s fiction. Johnny Football is the unhinged reality. You have no idea what he’ll do next. But I’ve studied the man in depth, learning his habits and patterns. I can now make an educated guess as to where he’ll turn up this season, and how he’ll cement his legend. Week by week, here’s how his season will play out.

Week 1: Home vs. Rice

The Thursday night before the game, Johnny Football shows up at the school pep rally with his good pal Six-Pack. Six-Pack’s well known around campus because he’s 300 pounds, nobody’s ever heard him talk, and he wears only ponchos. The students go nuts when they see Manziel, and start chanting his name until he takes the stage. Six-Pack comes with him, and when the crowd finally quiets down, Johnny Football grabs a trumpet from one of the band members and tells Six-Pack to play. “You’re all going to listen to him!” he screams at the crowd. “This is art!” The students go quiet, but Six-Pack has never played the trumpet before, and he just kind of blows into it randomly while Johnny Football does a swervy hip dance and shouts a song whose only words are “Where are my chiquitas at?” When it’s over, he disappears into the crowd and shows up for an 8 a.m. lecture the next day wearing a fake mustache and smelling like soil. Weird thing is, it’s not even his class.

Against Rice, he runs for 200 yards and four touchdowns and throws a ball 85 yards in the air on a bomb as A&M wins 76-3.

Week 2: Home vs. Sam Houston State

On Saturday morning, just hours before kickoff, Johnny Football is spotted at a Topeka, Kansas, deli wearing a Jeff George jersey. He’s accompanied by a heavily tattooed 46-year-old woman named Bambi. When asked what he’s doing in Topeka, Manziel looks puzzled and mentions something vague about stealing a sea plane in Corpus Christi the night before after “getting weird with some nutmeg.” He orders two hot pancakes, presses them to the sides of his face, and closes his eyes. Later, he’s overheard telling Bambi that she’s “something less than a girlfriend, something more than a lover.” This sparks a loud argument, which leads to broken dishes and Johnny Football yelling, “I’d marry you if you weren’t so damn crazy!”

He hitches a ride south in the back of a horse van, and by the time the trip is over, the horses will only respond to the new names he’s given them — Wanderlust, Evangeline, Skyrider, and Taco. He arrives in the middle of the second quarter and throws for 300 yards in a blowout win.

Week 3: Home vs. Alabama

‘Bama quarterback AJ McCarron has been burned by Johnny Football one too many times, and convinces his famous girlfriend Katherine Webb to stay at home for this one. Not that he doesn’t trust her, but Johnny Football is a charming devil, and he’ll do anything to get in McCarron’s head before the big game. Everything is going according to plan until McCarron’s cell phone starts ringing on Friday while he’s studying plays. There’s loud music in the background, but the voice is unmistakable. “Hey McSharon,” says Manziel, using the nickname he knows the quarterback hates. “Tuscaloosa’s a shit hole, but I found one nice thing.” Faintly, McCarron can hear a woman’s voice apologizing, but Manziel’s voice interrupts. “She told me you cry after sex,” he says, just before the line goes dead. McCarron throws his phone in fury; he had cried only a few times, he thinks. Only a few times.

The next day, McCarron throws five interceptions as A&M wins 27-12.

Week 4: Home vs. SMU

The national media is abuzz — Johnny Football goes missing on Monday, and there’s still no sign of him on Saturday morning. A&M coach Kevin Sumlin has to make plans to win without him. But just before kickoff, Manziel rides out from the tunnel on a horse named Taco. He’s wearing a pair of jean shorts with the tag still hanging on the back, but he suits up just in time to lead A&M to a 94-10 win. Later, he explains to the media that he had spent the week “tracking down an old friend.”

Week 5: Away vs. Arkansas

Johnny Football shows up Thursday night with his friend Cajun at a Masonic lodge just outside Fayetteville for a celebratory pig roast. He’s wearing a brand-new Ryan Leaf jersey, and he brings his own pig, which he claims to have caught in the “Big Woods” — a 500-acre stretch of hardwood and swampland in the northern part of the state. The Masons, all Razorback fans, shout at him to leave and throw hot pig sauce that ruins his jersey. On the way out, Cajun flips a picnic table and tries to set fire to a Winnebago in the parking lot.

Friday, Johnny Football shows up at the Arkansas student union holding a birdcage with an ivory-billed woodpecker — the so-called “Lord God bird” — previously thought to be extinct. He claims to have captured the bird by hand, again in the Big Woods, and he names it “Gentleman Jim.” The rest of the day goes well until Cajun gets arrested for ripping out a frat house bathtub and hurling it out a window at 3 a.m. On Saturday, Johnny Football throws for 350 yards and runs for 120 more as A&M beats Arkansas 45-12. The fans can’t help themselves and begin chanting his name in the fourth quarter. He’s known forever after in Fayetteville as the “Lord God QB.”

Week 6: Away vs. Ole Miss

Johnny Football decides that the way to beat Ole Miss is by opportunistic punting, and takes matters into his own hands by repeatedly punting the ball on third down. The strategy infuriates Sumlin, who benches him early in the fourth quarter. But Johnny Football gives an impassioned speech to his coach, apologizing and vowing to lead his team to victory. It’s a close game, so Sumlin finally relents. Once he returns, Johnny Football promptly punts the ball on first down, and Ole Miss returns it for the deciding score. A&M loses 13-10.

Week 7: Home vs. Auburn

On Wednesday, Sumlin receives a call in the middle of the night, waking him from a deep sleep. It’s his quarterback. “I think I just signed up for the Navy,” says a panicked Johnny Football. It turns out he was wrong; he and his friends Horndog and Red Bull had been in a drunken fight with a group of sailors in Galveston, and before it ended Manziel managed to steal one of their uniforms and put it on before fleeing. He wandered off, passed out in an alley, and forgot everything that happened when he woke up. The next morning, not wanting to be derelict in his duty to the country, Manziel boards a ship in Galveston Bay. He gets four demerits for a dirty uniform, and when the boat pulls out, he realizes this isn’t the life for him and jumps overboard. The military police are there to nab him when he swims ashore. He is tried for desertion on Friday, but all charges are dropped when it turns out he was never in the Navy in the first place. He walks free just in time to throw six touchdown passes in a 54-36 win over Auburn. It’s a bittersweet victory, though, because Manziel soon discovers that Horndog has minor hearing loss from the fight.

Week 8: Home vs. Vanderbilt

Johnny Football warns his teammates not to laugh when he takes off his shirt in the locker room before the game. Tattooed on his back, in huge, purple letters, are the words “Beat Wanderbuilt.” He remembers nothing.

Week 9: Home vs. UTEP

Mysteriously, on Thursday afternoon, Johnny Football heads to the local mall and buys over 40 Tebow jerseys. That night, at the pep rally, he takes the stage with a T-shirt cannon and shoots them all into the puzzled crowd one by one. Six-Pack plays the trumpet and hasn’t improved at all.

Week 10: Home vs. Mississippi State

Johnny Football mistakenly thinks the game is at Mississippi State and decides to road trip with Horndog rather than take the team flight. It’s a harrowing trip in Horndog’s pickup because he can’t really hear other cars beeping at him and was a pretty bad driver to begin with. But they arrive in one piece, only to find that the game’s at College Station and it’s way too late to go back. So they head to the stadium, where the national championships of the Punt, Pass & Kick contest are being held. Manziel decides to make the best of a bad situation and wins the 15-and-up age group. Horndog takes third in the 11-12 division.

Week 11: Away vs. LSU

Johnny Football shows up in Baton Rouge on Saturday morning wearing a gator pelt that barely covers his torso and waist. He tells anyone who will listen that he wrestled it to death in the swamps the day before and skinned it into cloth. The claim makes ESPN’s College GameDay, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals stage a protest rally outside the stadium. Finally, Manziel admits to PETA that he didn’t actually wrestle the gator, but ran it over on purpose with an airboat and had it skinned by a local. This doesn’t satisfy them. They get even more annoyed when Johnny Football throws for 345 yards and runs for two scores in a 32-29 A&M win.

Week 12: Away vs. Missouri

Johnny Football is depressed most of the week. The media picks up on this, but all he’ll say, as tears form in his eyes, is “I rode him too hard.” On Saturday, the words “R.I.P. Taco” are written in Magic Marker on both of his shoes. Late in the fourth quarter, with the game well in hand, Manziel audibles to a deep pass out of the shotgun on second down. He catches the snap, whispers “This one’s for you, Taco,” and punts the ball downfield.

Week 13: SEC Championship vs. Florida

“What’s ‘Wanderbuilt’?” asks Will Muschamp’s wife the night before the big game.

“I’d rather not talk about it,” says Johnny Football.

Week 14: National Championship vs. Ohio State

In the week leading up to the title game, Johnny Football is photographed with a fake mustache at a Pasadena Chili’s, doing shots with former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. He says the two are “just old friends.” The rest of the week passes without event, and Manziel is brilliant in the championship, leading A&M to a resounding 28-13 win over Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes. As the cameras find him after the game, he drops to one knee and looks straight into the lens. “Bambi,” he says, “will you marry me? I swear I’ll treat you right! This won’t be another Taco situation. I learned my lesson. Johnny Football is ready to settle down.” Four days later, the two marry. They separate a month later when Manziel leaves town to “try the rodeo thing for a while.”

Filed Under: College Football, Texas A&M

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Shane Ryan is a contributing writer for Grantland. His book about the young stars of the PGA Tour will be published by Random House in early 2015.

Archive @ ShaneRyanHere