Will Johnny Go Marching Home?
Can JFF save the Texans?
Like many Houston Texans fans, the rapper Slim Thug spent much of the 2013 NFL season frustrated by the team’s offensive struggles. During a particularly uninspiring October game against the St. Louis Rams, starting quarterback Matt Schaub left the game with an injury and backup QB T. J. Yates quickly threw a pick-six, leading Thug to tweet, “I’m about to go pick up Vince Young.”
Young, the Houston native/Longhorns star/NFL washout, tweeted back that he was ready, and Thug promised his friend that he was on his way. Nothing, of course, ever came of this desperate idea, but it’s fair to ask whether it might have actually made a difference. The Texans went on to finish the season 2-14, the league’s worst record.
But failure in the NFL is rewarded with a chance at greatness, and the Texans have now found themselves with the first pick in this year’s NFL draft, which begins May 8. So what does Slim Thug want to see the team do with it?
“I wanna see Johnny Football. Come on, man,” says Thug. “I believe in him. I believe he’s a winner. Even though the NFL’s a whole ’nother game, I believe he’ll make the transition somehow, some way.”
That sentiment—that Heisman-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel, who helped put Texas A&M’s football program back on the map, is the antidote for all that’s ailed the Texans—is a popular one in Houston. And for that we can give some credit to A&M regent Tony Buzbee, who has been waging a public campaign to “Keep Johnny Football in Texas!” Beginning in January, Buzbee, a trial lawyer perhaps best known for his successful lawsuits against BP, put up twelve billboards around the Houston area urging the Texans to draft Manziel.
“I wasn’t really trying to convince the leadership of the team,” Buzbee explains. “It was more to see what interest there was. I did it because it’s fun, because I can do it, because my kids love Johnny Manziel, because I’ve enjoyed watching the young man play.”
For Texans fans, the question of whether to take a hometown-hero quarterback at the top of the draft is a familiar one. The last time the team found itself with the first pick was in 2006, the year that Young entered the league. The Texans picked Mario Williams instead—a decision that has been validated by Young’s subsequent checkered career. But local loyalties die hard. “Vince Young is my partner,” Thug says. “I wish they had taken him when they had the opportunity.” Like Buzbee and a lot of other Houstonians, he’s hoping that this time around, the Texans think Texas first.