Manziel transformed Texas A&M in his two years

Texas A&M is big on statues around campus in Aggieland.

There’s one of Earl Rudder. There’s also one of Sul Ross. The school’s other Heisman Trophy winner — John David Crow — has one too. And of course there’s the E. King Gill Statue outside Kyle Field, proudly representing the 12th Man.

The school might want to get one started of Johnny Manziel pronto.

Manziel, who opted to forgo his final two years of school Wednesday, transformed Texas A&M’s football team from one that was hoping to step out of the Texas shadow with a move to the SEC into a nationally-known school.

Sure not everything was perfect in his two years leading the Aggies, but there’s been no more important figure in the history of Texas A&M football than Manziel.

Manziel is responsible for the respect the program now has nationally, the upgrades Kyle Field is getting, the top-flight recruits that are now streaming to College Station and the overall excitement surrounding football in College Station.

Sure there have been other contributors to the success, namely head coach Kevin Sumlin, but everyone surrounding Manziel has really just ridden his wave.

Without Manziel, Sumlin might not have been such a hot commodity in coaching circles, pursued by pro teams after one year in College Station. Sumlin’s gotten paid well too with a new contract, some of which has to be attributed to a quarterback that Sumlin didn’t even recruit to the school. As good as Sumlin has been in his two years at A&M, the success the football team has started and ended with Manziel.

Sumlin should be grateful for all the spotlight Manziel brought to the school.

He’s not alone. The same could be said for Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury, whose one year as the offensive coordinator at A&M just happened to coincide with Manziel’s Heisman Trophy campaign. The same could also be said for receiver Mike Evans, a likely first-round pick in the draft. Like Manziel, Evans is leaving school with two years of eligibility remaining. But would Evans be a likely first rounder without Manziel throwing to him? It would have been a lot different for him if Jameill Showers would have beaten out Manziel for the job last year or of autograph gate would have cost Manziel more than the ½ game it did this season.

Even the anti-Mack Brown crowd should applaud everything Manziel did. If Manziel wouldn’t have burst onto the national scene last year, no one would have been talking about Manziel as the quarterback who got away from Texas because Brown didn’t want him. While not the final nail in the Brown coffin at UT, it was one of them.

Johnny Manziel's Texas A&M timeline >>

And while people are thanking Manziel, Jameis Winston should be one of them too. If it weren’t for Johnny Football becoming the first freshman to win a Heisman, there may not have been a Famous Jameis win.

Of course Texas A&M itself has been the biggest beneficiary. Just look at the construction taking place at Kyle Field. Sure it would have happened without Manziel, but the interest in the program that he brought has certainly accelerated the process. Just look at ticket sales over the last two years and the national attention A&M received. No. 2 jerseys aren’t just popular in College Station, they are popular nationally too. It’s hard to put a dollar figure on the money Manziel has brought to the university but gobs would probably work.

Aggie games were must-see TV for two seasons nationally not because of Sumlin or Evans but because of Manziel. How do you explain the Chick-fil-A Bowl, a second-tier bowl, earning the highest ratings for the non-BCS bowl for ESPN in more than a decade? It was all because of Manziel.

Manziel wasn’t just a sports figure either. Hanging with Drake, LeBron, appearing in country music videos.

How many college quarterbacks have TMZ cameras following their every move?

Sure not everything Manziel did put A&M in a positive light. His arrest as a freshman was no good. Neither was his complaining about his rather cushy life in College Station. The Manning camp exit didn’t put him in a favorable light. And of course he did put the 2013 season in jeopardy with his signature saga.

But Manziel, like the Aggies, survived all off the off-field issues. While there were people rooting for Manziel to fail this season, he didn’t. Instead he once again excelled and finished fifth in the Heisman voting and was in the top 10 nationally in total offense, passing yards, points responsible for per game, passing efficiency and passing touchdowns.

He’ll leave College Station have raised the profile of Texas A&M’s football program to heights it’s never been.

Statue-worthy heights.