Here's what it took for me to become a Johnny Manziel fan.
The threat of NCAA ineligibility. A nation of football fans pretty much turning on him. His reputation going from adored Heisman Trophy winner to glorified punk. ESPN college football analyst Mark May barbecuing him live on national television following a season-opening win against Rice.
Through it all, Johnny Football showed he didn't care. He just kept firing touchdown passes.
We are a country with an incredible rush to judgement. And in that rush to judgement, Manziel's been unwittingly turned into a sympathetic figure. At least in my eyes.
Last year, I knew little of him beyond the football field. I admired the way he went on the road and handled Alabama in a way few quarterbacks have ever handled a Nick Saban-led 'Bama team. I marveled at his scrambling ability, and his poise under pressure.
At the same time, I wondered if he was a system quarterback, a bit of a creation. I wondered if this seemingly anointed Golden Boy could produce under duress.
Following an offseason filled with drama, Manziel has gained a follower in this writer. Most looked down upon his trash-talk to Rice players, especially when he very clearly told one defender he couldn't have his autograph. Manziel was labeled selfish. May in studio acted like he had never seen anything as horrific in his life.
I loved it.
Johnny Football keeps it real. If he's asked a question, he's going to be expressive. He's the kind of quarterback I would want to block for, run routes for.
Does he party a little too much? Yes. But at that age, so did I. Did he make some mistakes this offseason? That's not in question. Is he arrogant? Absolutely.
But name me an elite quarterback who doesn't have a huge ego. To play that position at a high level, you can't be meek. You can't back down from a challenge, and Manziel is the kind of person that returns fire with fire. Good for him.
Never change, Johnny Manziel. You make my life as a football fan that much more interesting.