In the hours after Texas A&M upset then top-ranked and perceived invincible Alabama, everyone and their grandparents took to the Internet to try and find as much as they could about Aggies freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel. This led to a series of pieces on news sites and blogs, (nearly) all expressing various degrees of shock over just how amazing "Johnny Football" was in Tuscaloosa.
If you'd seen Texas A&M play earlier this year, Manziel's performance wouldn't have been such a surprise. Yet, if you've been following Prep Rally since the blog's inception, you probably would have had a sense of Manziel's penchant for highlights ripped straight out of a video game.
Prep Rally first helped preach the gospel of Johnny Football early in Manziel's senior season at Kerrville (Texas) Tivy High in September of 2010. At the time, Manziel was an under-the-radar two-way QB talent, a rare Class 4A Texas talent who decided to commit to an out-of-state program (Oregon) rather than stay in-state at Texas or Texas A&M (not to mention TCU, Texas Tech, Baylor, Houston, SMU or any others). He later decommitted from Oregon after A&M offered him a scholarship because he wanted to play closer to home and the rest, as they say, is history.
Manziel had racked up impressive numbers as a junior, but not impressive enough to slip in front of the likes of Braxton Miller, Teddy Bridgewater or Marcus Mariota higher up the Rivals.com ranking of dual-threat quarterbacks. In essence, Manziel was considered one of the best of the second tier of dual-threat quarterbacks (along with Everett Golson, interestingly), with his status held back by his diminutive stature (he stood just 6-foot-1 and 193 pounds during his senior season) and concerns about his durability and his ability to rise to the level of competition in major Division I football.
Then he put up one of the more legendary performances in the recent history of Texas high school football, and all those doubts disappeared.
In a remarkably back-and-forth, 54-45 Tivy victory against highly ranked Cibolo (Texas) Steele High, Manziel accounted for eight touchdowns, passing for six and running for two more. In the process he managed to outduel Steele running back Malcolm Brown, widely considered one of the top-two running back recruits in the country.
The two stars, who now play for bitter rivals in different conferences, traded touchdowns back and forth, with each seemingly daring the other to outdo it the next time they got the ball.
While Brown was impressive -- he ran for four touchdowns and a career-high 353 yards himself -- Manziel was otherworldly. The skinny country kid passed for 428 yards in a 34-for-42 night through the air. On the ground he ran for 145 yards. And, when all was said and done, Manziel had accounted for all but 14 of Tivy's total yards. No exaggeration.
With stats like those there was little doubt that Steele knew exactly who was going to be handling the ball by game's end. The issue was simply that the Steele defense couldn't stop Manziel for its life.
That was perhaps best exhibited by one play in the second quarter, which the San Antonio Express News artfully described as you see below:
Two defenders tried to chase Manziel 20 yards deep into the backfield on one second-quarter play. Manziel's solution: He avoided the sack and scrambled to the left sideline, then somehow spotted Steven Brant open in the end zone on the other side of the field, launching a pass right into his hands for a 32-yard TD.
That touchdown was hardly Manziel's only preposterous scoring highlight of the game, as you can see in the video clip above, with everyone who saw the performance in person leaving with jaw agape by game's end.
"We tried to contain him," Steele coach Mike Jinks told the Express-News at the time. "But once he broke contain, Johnny did what Johnny does."
Added Brown: "It was crazy -- he actually puts up video-game stats every single night. Johnny is awesome. Everybody knows it."
If Steele defenders were feeling self conscious about their inability to slow down Manziel by game's end, they can now look back and know that they were fated to be in good company. After Saturday, Alabama's defense certainly knows the feeling.
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