The legend of Johnny Football grew to mythic proportions this season even though Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin banned Johnny Manziel from interviews. Last week, in an attempt to bolster the candidacy of the Heisman Trophy front-runner, Sumlin removed the muzzle. With the slightest Texas twang, Manziel said that he's amazed people want his autograph and he finds it hilarious that fans ascribe to him the sort of hyperbole they once reserved for Chuck Norris and Tim Tebow. He believes that he is always the best player on the field, but this awareness doesn't cross over into cockiness. From the tip of his buzz cut to the soles of his size-15 shoes, he simply knows he can do things on a gridiron few others can.
Johnathon Paul Manziel was born on Dec. 6, 1992, in Tyler, Texas, to Paul and Michelle, erstwhile bartenders who'd moved on to careers in home building and retail. The family, including younger sister Meri, moved to Kerrville, a jewel of the Texas Hill Country 66 miles northwest of San Antonio, when Johnny was in seventh grade. From the start there was something about Johnny.
"If you hadn't been there, you wouldn't have believed it."
—Harley Hooper, uncle
"It was a little Fisher-Price golf club. He would grab it crosshanded. He would rear it all the way back and wrap it around his neck and knock the heck out of [the ball]. His foot would come up like a professional golfer's. It was the funniest thing in the world. He would drag that club with him everywhere."
"Johnathon was two years old. He does this perfect little swing and knocks the ball clear across the fence. We all look at one another, and we're like, You've got to be kidding. He can't do it again. We said, 'Do it again.' So he did it again. It went all the way over the fence with this little plastic Fisher-Price golf club. It was insane."
—Bridgette Hooper, aunt
"It was, say, 100 feet."