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College football has fallen for Texas A&M's Manziel

| Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012, 10:48 p.m.
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) celebrates after a review proves an Aggie touchdown during the first half of their first SEC meeting against and Alabama in an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. No. 15 Texas A&M defeated No. 1 Alabama 29-24. AP

College football fans already know him by his “Johnny Football” nickname.

With 33 touchdowns in his first 10 games, Texas A&M redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel — whose coach still doesn't permit him to speak with the media — has become one of the season's most fascinating stories.

Manziel made his bid for the Heisman Trophy last week after leading Texas A&M to a 29-24 upset win at then-No. 1 Alabama. Manziel was 24 of 31 for 253 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for a team-high 92 yards on 18 carries.

Manziel has completed 72 percent of his passes (227 of 336) for 2,780 yards, 18 touchdowns and six interceptions. He's also rushed for 1,014 yards and 15 touchdowns on 156 carries (6.5-yard average). He's on pace to set the SEC record for total offense in a season.

“He's been able to handle the moment,” said first-year Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, who unsuccessfully recruited Manziel when he was coach at Houston. “There hasn't been a moment that's too big for him.

“He's gotten progressively better all year.”

Buoyed by Manziel's play, Texas A&M has tamed the notoriously brutal SEC in its first year in the league. Entering Saturday's game against nonconference opponent Sam Houston State, the Aggies are 8-2 with losses to Florida and LSU by a combined eight points.

In turn, Manziel — a former Oregon recruit whose Heisman chances increased following his stunning performance against Alabama — has become a football star on the field and a cultural phenomenon off it.

Texas A&M's Memorial Student Center quickly sold out of more than 500 of Manziel's No. 2 jerseys. Texas A&M and Manziel's family are attempting to trademark “Johnny Football” when Manziel's college eligibility expires to prevent outside interests from profiting from his nickname.

“When you win and you're a quarterback, there's a lot of good things that go along with that,” Sumlin said. “I've said it before, as a quarterback, the first thing you've got to realize, just like the head coach, you get too much credit when you win, but you get all the blame when you lose. When you become comfortable with that, you become a better quarterback.”

John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at jharris@tribweb.com.

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