Heisman hopeful Johnny Football's roots trace to Tyler family
Walking into Loggins Restaurant, a staple in Tyler for more than 60 years, it's not difficult to determine the favorite football player of the owners.
The waitresses wear the maroon and white of Texas A&M University, and the walls are adorned with photos of Johnny Manziel, the Aggies star quarterback and folk hero.
The pictures are of "Johnny Football" as a young child, from his days on the Pop Warner Tyler Hurricanes team, to his Kerrville Tivy High School squad, to his current team in College Station.
Grandparents Jerry and Lyana Loggins are beaming with pride. They highlight the other teams in town -- John Tyler High School, Robert E. Lee High School and Tyler Junior College -- but the main spotlight is reserved for their grandson and Heisman Trophy finalist.
Manziel has burst onto the college football scene and could become the first freshman to win the most prestigious and recognizable award in sports Saturday night in New York when the Heisman Trophy winner is announced. Manziel, the record-setting A&M quarterback who was born in Tyler, is a finalist along with Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein and Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o.
From all indications, whether it is Las Vegas gambling or the polling by ESPN, Manziel is the favorite to become the second player from A&M (John David Crow, 1957 winner) and the second person born in Tyler (Earl Campbell, 1977 winner) to reap the honor.
USA Today predicted the race is shaping up to be one of the closest in the award's 78-year history.
Three freshmen have finished second; Adrian Peterson, of Palestine and Oklahoma, came the closest, only to finish runner-up to Southern California quarterback Matt Leinart in 2004. Since then sophomores Tim Tebow, quarterback of Florida in 2007, and Mark Ingram, running back of Alabama in 2009, have joined the exclusive club.
Could a freshman be next?
"There's a first time for everything," Mrs. Loggins said. "It's hard to believe. I don't know if it is just everybody in Texas telling us, but everyone is saying Johnny has a good chance. But I don't know what the East coast and West coast voters are thinking."
"About a month ago when it was announced that Johnny was on the Heisman Trophy watch list, I thought to myself that is such an honor for a freshman. I never thought he would be a finalist."
Manziel, who led Texas A&M to its first 10-win season since 1998, is second in the nation in total offense with more than 383 yards a game. He leads the Southeastern Conference in yards rushing a game (98.4), pass completions a game (22.8), scoring per game (9.5) and points responsible for per game (21.5).
With a knack for improvisation, Manziel racked up an SEC-record 4,600 yards of total offense, including 1,181 rushing to lead the conference. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Manziel zoomed to the front of the Heisman race on Nov. 10, when he passed for 253 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 92 yards as the Aggies upset then-No. 1 Alabama 29-24 in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Loggins thought his grandson would do well in college, but never imagined this type of impact.
"We went to almost all of his games in Kerrville (Tivy High School); he was like a man amongst boys," he said. "When he went into the game he took control of the field. But I never thought about the Heisman."
Loggins felt Manziel would excel at the sport he chose.
"I knew early on he had a lot of athletic ability," he said. "He spent the night at the house a lot. We would roll balls across the floor, gradually elevated to throwing the ball and throwing the ball harder. When (Mrs. Loggins) was in bed he would knock something off the wall and break it. She would come out of the bedroom and Johnny would take off running.
"We would play outside throwing the football. He developed a spiral when he was 5 or 6 years old, really early. He could throw that ball. He was a good golfer, beating me when he was 10 years old. He is a good baseball player, good enough the Boston Red Sox sent him letters."
Both of his parents, Paul and Michelle Manziel, played on the Robert E. Lee golf team. Paul is a scratch golfer, while Michelle played basketball, softball and still plays golf.
Now, they will all gather in New York this weekend.
"The last 12 weeks have gone by so fast," Mrs. Loggins said. "It is so exciting, we don't want it be over.
"It's been fun and crazy -- crazy good."