Home Depot Awards - Day 1
12th Man TV is with Luke Joeckel and Johnny Manziel this week in Orlando as they participate in the Home Depot College Football Awards Show.
Photos are available on Facebook through the link to the right. Video is available through the link above.
In addition, check out this blog from Wednesday, courtesy Rusty Burson from our friends at 12th Man Magazine.
MANZIEL BETTER THAN DISNEY MAGIC FOR ONE FAMILY
Colin Robertson booked his dream family vacation for early December 2012 at Disney World many months earlier, choosing randomly to stay at the Boardwalk Hotel. He could have never envisioned when he made those travel plans that he and his two sons, Tyler and Tommy, would experience the biggest thrill of their entire vacation without setting foot in one of the theme parks.
Robertson and his family live in Oregon, where his wife, Jennifer, earned her undergraduate degree at Oregon State. But the couple actually met after Colin left the Navy and Jennifer began pursuing her graduate degree at Texas A&M, which she earned in 1999. The couple's oldest son, Tyler, was born in Bryan in 1996, and the entire family may represent the four most passionate Aggie fans in Wilsonville, Ore.
So, you can imagine their surprise-and sheer delight-when they discovered, by chance, that the Home Depot College Football Awards were also being held at the hotel at the same time as their trip. And they were ecstatic about the possibility of possibly bumping into Texas A&M redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel.
While Manziel and Texas A&M offensive lineman Luke Joeckel were being interviewed by throngs of media members inside one of the meeting rooms at the Boardwalk Hotel Convention Center on Dec. 5, the Robertson family, with all the males donned in maroon and white, waited patiently in hopes that one of the players would possibly exit into the lobby, as opposed to using the back entrance, which most of the other awards candidates did.
After at least 30 minutes of waiting, the family's persistence paid off. Manziel entered the lobby to be interviewed by ESPN college football reporter Joe Schad. After the interview with Schad was complete, the Robertson family began applauding for Manziel, who stopped momentarily to chat with the family and shake hands with all of the boys.
"My wife is a graduate of Oregon State and Texas A&M, so we are really, really, really glad you didn't go to Oregon," Colin Robertson told Manziel. "We are some of your biggest fans, and what a great treat it is for us to meet you here."
After Manziel departed the lobby, Jennifer Robertson expounded on just how excited her husband was to meet Manziel.
"I no longer have to worry about getting him a Christmas present," she said with a laugh. "Nothing could top the thrill of meeting Johnny Football, anyway."
A&M'S 2012 OPPONENTS STILL RAVING ABOUT MANZIEL, AGGIES
As he glanced toward the media members jockeying for position and circling around Johnny Manziel at an interview session preceding the Home Depot College Football Award Show, University of Florida kicker Caleb Sturgis smiled and shook his head playfully.
"Johnny Manziel is the star of the show here in Orlando," said Sturgis, a first-team All-SEC pick and a finalist for the Lou Groza Award after leading the Gators with 101 points in 2012. "And deservedly so. He has had an incredible year. I guess I just wish I knew how good he was going to turn out when we played them in College Station (on Sept. 8 in the Aggies' first game of the year). Considering the way he played in the first half (when the Aggies built a 17-10 lead at the intermission), I knew he was good.
"But now I look at him and all he has done and I think, 'Wow, our defense was something else in the second half (to hold the Aggies scoreless in what turned out to be a 20-17 win for UF).' We felt good about the win at the time, but it's a really big win now."
Sturgis hit two field goals against the Aggies, including one late in the second quarter after A&M had attempted to "ice" him by calling a timeout just before he tried a 51-yard field goal. Sturgis missed the first one, but he received another chance because A&M called timeout before the snap. Given another chance, Sturgis nailed the kick.
Sturgis says he knew at the time of the A&M game that Florida, which went on to an 11-1 record, had a chance to be a really good team this year. But he says the Aggies surprised him.
"That was a team that went 6-6 in the Big 12 last year, so to go 10-2 this year is really impressive," Sturgis said. "I would not be honest if I said that they were not a really big surprise. They earned all the accolades they are receiving."
Sturgis wasn't the only SEC player up for a national award who was praising the 2002 Aggies.
"I have a lot of respect for Coach (Kevin) Sumlin and Johnny Manziel, who has done a really good job of leading them and getting them to 10-2," said Mississippi State defensive back Johnthan Banks, a Jim Thorpe Award finalist. "Manziel deserves all the awards he receives, and I really have a lot of respect for the entire team."
In arguably Mississippi State's biggest home game of the year on Nov. 3 in Starkville, Miss., the Aggies raced to a 24-0 halftime lead over the Bulldogs en route to a 38-13 win before a stunned crowd of 55,240 fans at Davis Wade Stadium. Banks said he respected A&M prior to that game, but he was especially impressed with the Aggies' physicality after playing them.
"With them coming from the Big 12, I didn't really know what to expect," said Banks, whose Bulldogs earned a trip to the Gator Bowl to face Northwestern on Jan. 1. "But they came into the SEC, the best league in the country, and proved they belonged. Not only that, they proved they could be very physical and even beat the SEC champion. They surprised me, and they definitely have my respect."
AGGIES MAY BE MEDIA DARLINGS
Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein drew a crowd when he entered the media room on Dec. 5 at the College Football Awards Show interview session. So did USC's Marqise Lee, Oregon's Kenjon Barner and Wisconsin's Montee Ball.
But none of those players-Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o didn't appear on Dec. 5 because of travel problems-attracted a media contingent like A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. For that matter, A&M offensive lineman Luke Joeckel was also quite the media star, as well.
"Nah," Joeckel said with a laugh. "People just come to me to ask me questions about Johnny. He's the one everyone wants to talk to."
And practically everyone was also talking about Manziel and the Aggies. While the Aggies did not earn a bid to one of the BCS bowl, many of the media members on hand in Orlando agreed that A&M's first-year success under Kevin Sumlin in the school's inaugural season in the SEC was one of the biggest stories in college football in 2012.
Oh, and Johnny Football helped, too.
"Johnny Football mania hits Central Florida," proclaimed the headline on the Dec. 6 edition of the Orlando Sentinel.
Added Matt Murschel, the college football writer of the Orlando Sentinel: "The mystique of Johnny Manziel has grown to the legendary status of Bigfoot or the chupacabra. He's the Paul Bunyan of college football, reaching almost an iconic status. His moniker, Johnny Football, even invokes an almost hero-like quality with the quarterback standing seven-feet-tall and able to single-handedly win games with both his arm and legs."
MANZIEL MAKES AN IMPRESSION ON SCHAD
Ever since he joined ESPN in 2005, Joe Schad has been one of the network's most versatile and hardest-working college reporters. He reports feature stories and sit-down conversations for ESPN shows such as College GameDay, College Football Live and SportsCenter.
Schad also writes news stories and blogs for ESPN.com and provides college football news content for SportsCenter. He's been a sideline reporter for ESPN, ABC and ESPN Radio and he previously worked for New York Newsday, ESPN The Magazine and the Orlando Sentinel/Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, where he covered the University of Florida.
In other words, Schad has seen and covered plenty of college football players through the years, but after interviewing Johnny Manziel on the day prior to the 2012 ESPN Home Depot College Football Awards Show, the veteran reporter acknowledged that he has never seen a freshman quite like Manziel.
"He is such a unique kid in terms of his skill set and talent," Schad said. "It's certainly a college football trend to see more and more quarterbacks contribute right away because they are so much better prepared to handle the pressure and compete right away. But Johnny is more than just mature or prepared to handle the pressure. So much of what he does is just God-given athletic ability, combined with a tremendous feel for the game and vision.
"That was actually the first time I had interviewed him (on Dec. 5), and I was really impressed with him on so many levels. He has a really good sense of humor and humility, which can be really tough to maintain when you have become the type of rock star he has become since the Alabama game."
FAMILIAR FACE SINGS A&M'S PRAISES
Former Texas A&M defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter was in Orlando for the College Football Awards Show, where one of his current players, Fresno State senior safety Phillip Thomas, was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award.
DeRuyter, the defensive coordinator for the Aggies in 2010-11 under Mike Sherman, took over this season as the head coach at Fresno State. The Bulldogs, champions of the Mountain West with a 9-3 overall record and 7-1 league mark, will meet Conference USA representative SMU on Christmas Eve at Hawaiian Airlines Field at Aloha Stadium.
The Fresno State staff has plenty of A&M ties, as Nick Toth is now the Bulldogs' defensive coordinator and former A&M players Jordan Peterson and Michael Hodges are also on DeRuyter's staff.
DeRuyter said he thoroughly enjoyed this past season at Fresno, and he also was quite pleased with A&M's first season success in the SEC.
"What a year for the Aggies," he said. "There are so many great people at Texas A&M, and I still keep tabs on so many of those player. I am really happy for all of them."