It's time to give Johnny Football his due

One of the most famous (and misquoted) sayings in American literature is Henry David Thoreau’s “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

What he actually wrote was that “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

Johnny Manziel has been known to recite a few of rapper Drake’s lyrics, but there’s no word on whether or not he’s into Thoreau.

What we do know, unequivocally, is that Manziel hardly falls into Thoreau’s mass of men.

The only desperation associated with Manziel is trying to collar him if you’re on defense.

We were reminded yet again last Saturday in Texas A&M’s 49-42 loss to Alabama why he’s so marvelously entertaining to watch.

It’s the same reason he was constantly in the news this offseason.

He’s unfazed by consequences, detests convention, and above everything else, is going to do things his way.

And not only does doing it his way make him one of the most must-see football players anywhere on the planet, it also makes him the ultimate game-changer in college football today.

Take Manziel and put him on any other team in the country with a legitimate defense, and that team instantly becomes a player in the national championship race.

That’s not a knock on AJ McCarron, Marcus Mariota, Teddy Bridgewater, Tajh Boyd, Todd Gurley or anybody else.

It’s simply validation, as one coach in the SEC told me this week, that Manziel is one of those rare players, especially now that he’s had a full season in the league, who can consistently take a play that is seemingly going nowhere and turn it into a 30-yard gain or even a touchdown.

He’s also one of those guys you just have to see live to fully appreciate him and to truly evaluate him.

One of the reasons he wasn’t a slam-dunk to win the Aggies’ quarterback starting job last preseason was that when defenders would get near him on the practice field, the whistle would typically blow.

That’s just the way it is with quarterbacks.

But Manziel’s brilliance is really just beginning when the whistle is about to blow. He never gives up on a play, never seems to get hemmed in and never takes his eyes off his receivers down the field.

The game tape doesn’t do him justice in terms of his quickness and escapability, something more and more coaches and players in this league are learning the hard way.

How it all translates to the next level remains to be seen, but the NFL is changing.

One longtime NFL insider equated Manziel to a basketball point guard and one of the best we’ve seen in this era.

“If you lay off, he drives it to the hoop, and if you try to pressure him, he dishes the pass off,” he said. “He just has an uncanny knack of getting the ball out of his hands without perfect mechanics sometimes like when he throws back across his body.

“There are times you think you’ve got him flushed, and he will spot a guy at the last second. But he also has a quick release, holds the ball high and is never out of a play.”

Manziel has already thrown 11 touchdown passes this season and didn’t even play the first half of the opener against Rice. His 562 yards of total offense against Alabama (the most ever by a player in an SEC game) means he’s averaging 444.8 yards of total offense over his last six games going back to the start of November last season.

In those six games, he’s accounted for 23 touchdowns.

The surest sign of a player’s greatness, especially an offensive player, is when defensive players start lining up to give him his props the way Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley did on Twitter after the game.

Most of us said during the summer, when all hell was breaking loose off the field that what Johnny Football needed was exactly that -- a little football.

Well, he’s got it -- and while we can debate endlessly on whether or not the NCAA took it easy on him for all those autographs he signed out of the goodness of his heart -- we football junkies can be grateful that he’s playing and not sitting.

Give Johnny Football his due. He’s worth the price of admission every time.

And, yes, worth the headaches, too.