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Even before the 6'1", 200-pound Manziel took a snap, Texas A&M fans referred to him as JFF (Johnny F------ Football), partly out of affection and partly to mock his outsized high school legend. At the start of this season, the Aggies were expected to finish near the bottom of the SEC West, but thanks to Manziel they went 10--2 and stunned college football by beating top-ranked Alabama in Tuscaloosa 29--24 on Nov. 10. The signature play of that game was Manziel's first-quarter touchdown pass to Ryan Swope, after Johnny recovered his own fumble and evaded three Alabama defenders.
Meanwhile the cult of Johnny Football grew. Tweeting about rescuing a kitten from the side of the road, wearing a bracelet for a sick child and dressing as Scooby-Doo for Halloween endeared Manziel to A&M fans as much as the winning did. It all started when Tivy commentator Wally Reed sent a photo of himself in front of the Downtown Athletic Club of New York—former home of the Heisman—to Manziel the night before his first game. The message: "Johnny, I'm waiting for you."
"You definitely give him more leeway with the ability he has to make plays. I had to get used to that. He missed this receiver and that receiver, but he did run for a 38-yard touchdown. You high-five him and you say, 'You had him and him, but, hey, great run.' Then you just build from there."
"Charlie is my five-year-old son. Earlier this year, he was diagnosed with a rare pediatric cancer called neuroblastoma. It was stage four, and it was high-risk. My husband and I were in College Station for the LSU game, and we ran into Rhonda [Overbergen, Johnny's cousin] and [her husband] Todd, who are our neighbors. The night before we had been showing Charlie all the players, including Johnny Football, and Charlie said, 'Oh, he is my favorite.' I told Rhonda that we've got these Charlie's Angels wristbands. I said, 'If you're going to see Johnny, why don't you give one to him?' It's just a reminder to pray for Charlie. That night she sent a picture of the two of them with the bands. It was a complete shock to us when we noticed it on the field at the next game. We thought, Well, we'll wait another week. And we noticed it again. He's continued to have it on. He sent Charlie a signed football on his birthday. He sent him a jersey last Sunday. Rhonda said she gave him the bracelet after the LSU game, and he was really down after the loss. He said, 'At the end of the day, this is the stuff that really matters.'"
"We were outside Northgate, which is where everyone goes when they go out in College Station. I see this guy in a Scooby-Doo costume, and I think, Oh, that's so funny. He turns around, and, Oh my God, it's Johnny Manziel. My friend immediately goes to him and says, 'Hey, can I get a picture with you?' I was so starstruck I forgot to ask for one for myself. He was so nice. He took a picture with my friend, and he had the hugest smile on his face."
—Cristina Rosenthal, Texas A&M sophomore, whose photo went viral
"Everybody was really dressed up. I was like, Damn, I don't have anything to wear. I texted one of my friends. I knew he had that Scooby costume from the week before. Three of my teammates were Chippendales dancers. I kept that from the media. Three guys on the team are in bowties with the cuffs on and no shirts on."