Editor’s Notebook: An Ode To Johnny Football

June 2014, Vol. 241, No. 6

A big sigh of disappointment echoed across the land May 8, for it had to come to pass that Johnny Football would no longer launch those beautiful spirals or befuddle opposing defenses with his dazzling footwork. Perhaps it was a sigh of relief, as Texans could now take a deep breath, grateful the circus was finally over, because Johnny Football would merely become Johnny Footnote, a legend, albeit a brief one, in Lone Star folklore.

Such is life.

For the uninitiated, understand that Texans love oil and Texans love football. In a state where they build $60 million high school stadiums, both tug at the heartstrings of our passions. They are first; there is no close second.

Then came Johnny Manziel. The kid from Kerrville quarterbacked the Texas A&M Aggies in 2012 and 2013. He stunned the nation in 2012 as the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy despite playing in the super-competitive Southeast Conference. He wasn’t quite as dominating in 2013, but he did thrill at national TV audience leading the Aggies to a come-from-behind victory over Duke in the Sugar Bowl.

Everyone knew Johnny would forego his final two years in Aggieland for the NFL draft. For months we Texans talked incessantly about where Johnny would take his talents. Would the last-place Houston Texans draft him with the first pick? Would Jerry Jones want him for his mediocre Dallas Cowboys? With baited breath we watched ESPN on draft night, waiting and waiting as teams rejected the increasingly anxious Johnny Football. They questioned his height (5-11), his ability to adapt to pro ball, and the relentless attention that would follow his every move on and off the field.

Finally, the Cleveland Browns used their second pick of the first round to draft Johnny 22rd overall. A frantic Johnny texted the Browns QB coach to get him out of there so that “we can wreck this league together.” And now it is done. Johnny Football moves into the graveyard of NFL quarterbacks. And life in Texas returns to normal.

Johnny will make millions on the field and in endorsements. University life meant little to him except for the opportunity to display his skills, which helped bring in hundreds of millions of dollars from football-crazed alumni to rebuild A&M’s football stadium. Did you know Johnny also loved to party? We glossed over his antics like busting into a frat party at the University of Texas, allegedly getting paid for signing jerseys or getting evicted from Peyton Manning’s football camp for his lackadaisical attitude. That’s just Johnny being Johnny, we told each other with a smile and a wink.

I have a few words to our friend, who counted the days until he could leave College Station. If you had ever bothered to visit a classroom and learn about your surroundings, you would have found that A&M is one of foremost universities in the land, a school that has developed some of the finest researchers, petroleum engineers, military officers, business leaders and football players.

George Mitchell was the father of fracking that completely overhaul of the energy industry. His friend, Michel T. Halbouty, was one of the world’s foremost wildcatters and geologists, for whom A&M’s Geosciences Building is named. Oscar Wyatt, Jr. created controversy in his day, but he also had the smarts to create Coastal Energy, which would be a major oil company, from the trunk of his car. He’s still around. Mark Ellis is president, chairman and CEO of Linn Energy, a leading independent. Khalid Al-Faith is president of Saudi Aramco. Ray Galvin ran Chevron U.S.A. and might have beaten Mitchell in the fracking race were it not for mandatory retirement. Joe B. Foster led Tenneco’s highly regarded oil company, then started Newfield Exploration Co. which became a successful independent. As chairman and CEO of UNOCAL, Richard Stegemeir transformed a losing operation while fending off a takeover effort from Boone Pickens.
These are just a few of the many who have been instrumental in our industry.

The Wall Street Journal once wrote that a survey of leading employment recruiters ranked A&M ranked second nationally as most likely to help students land a job in key careers and professions. I’m sure Johnny didn’t miss that little tidbit.

Want to know something else? According to Wikipedia, A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine was the first academic institution to clone each of six different species: cattle, a Boer goat, pigs, a cat, a deer and a horse.

Maybe Johnny Football was thoughtful enough to leave something else besides memories behind.

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