Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel watches from the sideline during… (Scott Halleran / Getty Images )
What was Texas A&M thinking in keeping Johnny Manziel muzzled all season?
The school Monday lifted the season-long gag order on the phenom quarterback known as "Johnny Football," now the prohibitive favorite to become the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy.
Not only can Johnny play, it turns out, he can eloquently speak.
"Nice to be able to talk to you all," Manziel said on a conference call.
For followers of college football, it was like going from silent films to "talkies."
First-year Texas A&M Coach Kevin Sumlin insisted on keeping to his policy of not allowing freshmen to speak to the media, even though Manziel is a second-year freshman who turns 20 on Dec. 6.
Manziel has electrified college football this year with a year for the ages. He has amassed 4,600 total yards in leading Texas A&M to a 10-2 record in its first year in the vaunted Southeastern Conference.
"This season has been incredibly, incredibly surreal," the Texas-born Manziel said. "It's beyond my wildest imagination."
Manziel said he played NCAA video games as a kid but always envisioned himself as someone taller.
"Typically I would have made him look something like Cam Newton," Manziel said of Auburn's 2010 Heisman winner.
Manziel is only 6 feet 1 and 200 pounds, which he said has prompted some SEC defenders to quip after tackling him, "You're not as big as we thought."
Manziel said he is uncomfortable with his celebrity, saying he is just a small-town kid from Kerrville (Texas).
He has reluctantly grown to accept the "Johnny Football" moniker.
"Obviously my name is Johnny," Manziel joked, "and I've been playing football since I was 6 years old. That's how it kind of fits."
Manziel chose Texas A&M after originally committing to Oregon, which has its own sensational redshirt freshman quarterback in Marcus Mariota. The Ducks' star was named Monday as first-team quarterback on the Pac-12's all-conference team.
Asked what it would have been like competing against Mariota for the starting spot this season, Manziel said, "It definitely would have been a battle."
Manziel has passed for 3,419 yards this season with 24 touchdowns, while also rushing for 1,181 yards and 19 touchdowns.
That's nothing, though. His senior year at Tivy High, Manziel had 77 touchdowns (45 passing, 30 rushing, one receiving and one kickoff return).
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