NCF On The Trail: mariota-manziel-111412

How Johnny Manziel ended up an Aggie 

November, 14, 2012
11/14/12
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Tom Rossley and Mark Smith knew each other well. Rossley, the former Texas A&M quarterbacks coach, recruited the San Antonio and surrounding areas when Smith was the head coach at Kerrville (Texas) Tivy, a small town outside of San Antonio.

[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesAggies quarterback Johnny Manziel has accounted for 3,794 yards and 33 touchdowns this season.
Smith generally enjoyed his conversations with Rossley when the two visited and felt comfortable enough to be bluntly honest with him, particularly when it came to the subject of Smith's then-star quarterback, Johnny Manziel.

Rossley recruited Manziel while at Texas A&M and liked virtually everything he saw, from his athleticism to his throwing ability. Like many college coaches, there's a wish list when it comes to quarterbacks, and height is on that list. That wasn't Manziel's strong suit, as the dual-threat quarterback stood just 6-foot-1.

Smith recalled the story from a coaching friend of his who used to be an assistant at Austin (Texas) Westlake. The way the story goes, a different former Texas A&M assistant stopped by Westlake in the mid-1990s and checked out a relatively small-statured but strong-armed quarterback named Drew Brees. The A&M assistant told the Westlake coaches that Brees was a little too short and had too awkward a throwing motion for the Aggies.

"So I looked at Tom and I told him the same story," Smith recalls. "And I said, 'Tom, I can remember you as the guy who made the greatest decision of your life or I can remember you like that other coach that I did that didn't recruit a Super Bowl-winner. I don't know which one you want to be, but it's up to you. I wouldn't worry about his height because he's going to win for you.'"

Fortunately for the Aggies, Rossley convinced head coach Mike Sherman that Manziel's lack of prototypical quarterback height was worth overlooking. And Smith's prophetic words are proving true as Manziel has become perhaps the brightest young star in college football this year, leading the No. 8 Aggies to an 8-2 record and, most recently, an upset road win over then-No. 1 Alabama.

The young man dubbed "Johnny Football" is breaking records and is a Heisman Trophy candidate, but coming out of high school he was an intriguing yet often-overlooked prospect.

Unheralded recruit Mariota leads Ducks 

November, 14, 2012
11/14/12
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In June 2010, a pair of overlooked quarterback recruits committed to the Oregon Ducks within three days of each other. Two years later, they have taken the college football world by storm.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Mariota
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireNo one has been able to catch Marcus Mariota and the Ducks this year.
In August, few outside of College Station, Texas, had heard of Johnny Manziel. Outside of Eugene, Ore., even fewer knew about Marcus Mariota. Now in November, Manziel is generating Heisman buzz after a historic upset of Alabama, while Mariota is piloting a Ducks squad that seems destined for the BCS title game.

Manziel and Mariota committed to the Ducks within days of attending Oregon's summer camp, but neither raised so much as an eyebrow. Instead, Ducks fans were more focused on Jerrard Randall, a quarterback rated No. 126 in the 2011 ESPN 150 from Florida who committed in mid-June. Randall was the No. 8 QB in the class, while Manziel was No. 39. Mariota? He was ranked 123rd and had only a Memphis offer before the Ducks came calling.

ESPN's National Director of Recruiting, Tom Luginbill, said in 2011 that Mariota was raw but had the potential to grow as a quarterback.

"He is the perfect example of the inexact science that evaluating 16-year-olds truly is," Luginbill said. "It can be easy to focus on the ESPN 150 or ESPN 300, but the reality is that players 301-1,000 are what make up most college rosters. They are the hardest to project and, in Mariota's case, even hard to find."

It’s hard to blame the scouts and coaches for missing Mariota. As a sophomore and junior, he had to fight for playing time with Jeremy Higgins, now a quarterback at Hawaii.


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