Johnny Manziel's emergence as a household name came in three distinct phases, beginning with his outrageous statistical exploits over the first half of the 2012 season. From there, the myth of "Johnny Football" -- a talent for who the game comes so naturally it might as well be his name -- leaped from the stat sheet into the broader public consciousness in Texas A&M's Nov. 10 ambush at Alabama and was etched in the firmament a month later when Manziel was awarded the Heisman Trophy. But before any of that, there was also the fact, soon to be lost to the deepest, darkest reaches of Google, that Johnny Football almost didn't see the field at all.
It's true: Amid the buzz of a new coaching staff installing a new offense in anticipation of its first season in a new conference, almost no one watching spring practices expected Manziel to be the Aggies' starting quarterback. No, by all accounts at the time, that job was Jameill Showers' to lose. It was Showers, the reports said, who possessed the strongest arm and the most poise. Manziel? Talented kid, sure, good athlete, but much too green. Too erratic on the field and off. Didn't separate himself from the pack.
By now, of course, the first blush looks like an obscure footnote, as does Showers after being overtaken in preseason camp and relegated to mop-up duty. But it points directly to another important aspect of Manziel's breakthrough and his team's: Even on campus, no one saw it coming. In 2013, the question is not only whether the Aggies can match last year's success under a more intense spotlight, but with a new season comes a new, even higher bar, already visible to everyone from eight months away.