Johnny Manziel talked with the press for the first time this season Monday on an hour-long teleconference.
You can listen to the audio in the player above. The full teleconference in mp3 format is available through the link to the right.
HEAD COACH KEVIN SUMLIN
"First of all, I just wanted to thank everybody who's involved in this teleconference and thank you for your patience throughout the year with our media policy. As I've said the last couple of weeks, how Johnny has performed this season, his numbers speak for themselves, against anybody who's played not only this year but who's played the game. As we've gone through this process, he's been a catalyst for this football team in the first season in the SEC. Going and winning 10 games this season, certainly with the help of his teammates, has accomplished a lot of things for a first-year program in the SEC. A tremendous competitor, a tremendous leader, and something that you really don't see in a player as a redshirt freshman. All his leadership on and off the field has made this season a real successful one."
QB JOHNNY MANZIEL
When did you first hear the nickname Johnny Football in reference to you and what do you think about it?
"It was something that kind of started to be thrown out a little bit whenever I first got here to Texas A&M. My feelings on it...I think it's something that's funny. I think it's something a lot of people here in Aggieland they enjoy, and that I find extremely funny. It kind of fits so it's something I think it's pretty funny."
With your family getting lawyers to try and trademark the name is that a process that has kind of surprised you?
"It definitely was a little bit of a surprise. It's something that's really out of my hands and something I'm not focused on. I'm focused on the season and trying to win as many football games for this program as possible. But it hasn't really been a main focus of mine."
After you redshirted last season, did you ever anticipate having this kind of season right out of the gate for Texas A&M?
"I definitely hold myself to high standards. I wanted to come out and have a good year if I was named the starter. There was no way I thought I'd have this much success. It just speaks volumes of our team and how much we've come together and grown each week. It tells a bigger story about everybody on this team."
What would it mean to you to be the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy?
"It's something that you dream about as a kid. When you're sitting there playing all these NCAA games as a kid and you create a player and you win the Heisman as a freshman because you just put up crazy numbers, it's something you can only sit back and dream about. It's the biggest, most prestigious award in college football, so it would definitely be a dream come true."
To what degree were you familiar with the system that Kevin Sumlin ran at Houston last year and to what degree do you think has it been modified to fit what you do well?
"I got a chance to watch Houston play. They had a lot of success when Case Keenum was there. They had a lot of success with Coach Sumlin and Coach Kingsbury and all the coaches that were there. They were known as the school that would go out there and throw it 50 to 60 times a game, put up huge passing numbers and just wow people with how they move the ball down the field. I feel like whenever they got here we got a chance to adapt a little more, just due to the ability that I could run a little bit more than Case and some of the guys they had at Houston. So it's adapted in a way to where we can read some stuff out and run the ball with the quarterback a bit more than just dropping back and passing."
Do you think you're operating with a bit more efficiency, at least on the passing end of it, than Keenum did last year, or is that an area where you think there's still potential for development on your end?
"I'm not sure if there's anybody out there who can do what Case Keenum did, because he put up 50 touchdowns in a year with 5,500 yards passing. Those are numbers that you just kind of sit back and laugh, because they're so ludicrous they are unbelievable. It's definitely something going into bowl practice that I'm going to try to keep working on my game completely, running, passing, just everything in general, and make sure we're ready for the bowl game."
Going into Alabama game this year, enlighten us on what your thoughts and plans were for attacking that defense...did you work on anything different?
"We definitely kept our game plan the same. We knew we wanted to get out and really push the tempo. That was a big message we wanted to send. We wanted to play as fast as possible and go as fast as possible, because we felt like we had a little bit of an advantage there. But as far as plays go, we ran the same stuff we do mostly every week and game planned the same way. We just wanted to go at a fast pace."
Now that you've had this phenomenal season, does this create pressure to do even more as you go on?
"I don't really think about it as pressure. I'm extremely, extremely blessed and extremely fortunate to be able to come to Texas A&M and play with this group of guys that are on this team. Going into the bowl game, it's something we all love-we all love the game of football or we wouldn't be here doing it. We all love playing the game, it's something that we're so, so lucky to be able to play. It's just going out and playing the game we love, nothing more than that."
What experiences did your time at (Kerrville) Tivy (HS) prepare you for what you've done at Texas A&M?
"If you look back at Tivy and our offense, we dropped back and threw it a lot and still oriented zone read stuff. Whenever Coach Sumlin got here it was a little bit easier transition for me because we kind of ran the same stuff in high school. The thing a bunch of people might not know was how the coaching staff handled the players there. They made us as mentally tough as you could possibly be, and they really pushed it to a level that I don't know that any other high schools around really got pushed to. Coach (Mark) Smith and those guys do an absolutely incredible job and I was so fortunate to have the opportunity to play for and be coached by all those guys."
Do you think you're the Heisman frontrunner? Do you think right now it's yours to lose?
"I don't know if that's the case. I feel like that situation will play itself out. Whatever is meant to be will happen. So I am just doing whatever Coach Sumlin and them ask me to do right now as far as resting and getting ready for bowl practices and making sure our team stays focused ready to hopefully come out and take care of business in a bowl game. I think the Heisman and all the other awards like that, they'll play themselves out."
How much has your "improv-ing" changed since the start of the season?
"I think each week, as you've seen, our offense has continued to grow. I remember looking back at the South Carolina State game and Coach Kingsbury coming up to me and saying 'Hey, that was a great run, a great scramble, but you had this, this and this'. That kind of made me watch film a little bit more and I've really grown with the offense more and more. There are times when you need to improvise and still play like I do, but times where I need to play within the system as well. It's kind of a happy medium for both I guess."
In terms of how it's worked out at A&M, could you have ever seen it going the way that it has? When did you get an idea that you belonged and you had something special going?
"I don't think I ever really envisioned how big this season would be for us. I don't really think anybody envisioned that we would win 10 games at the beginning of the season and that we would all have as much success as a team. The Florida game, we really fought hard and came up short, but we made some mistakes and hurt ourselves in the second half and didn't really move the ball as an offense. But after we continued to progress each week, and as the weeks went on and we really saw we could hang in the league, it was something that we as a team embraced and made sure we got better every week. And that's what happened."
Throughout this season we've all been waiting for you to talk...did you feel being able to not have to deal with media on consistent basis helped you? Is there anything you've been dying to say throughout this run?
"I don't know that there's anything I've been dying to say. Whatever Coach Sumlin's policy was I was going to respect that, and I trust he knows what best for me and the whole team. I just followed his plan and I didn't really know when I was going to be able to talk to the media. It's nice now to let you guys know how I am a little bit more since there's so many question marks out there. It's nice to be able to talk to y'all."
If you're creating a quarterback in a video game, or when you've done it in the past, does he look like you? Run like you? Throw like you? What's he look like?
"When I created a video game player, I probably made him 6-6, 230 pounds, just how you'd boost everyone's stats in a video game. I definitely didn't make him my size, but I've played so many video games maybe a few times I did. But typically I would have made him look like someone like Cam Newton."
When you get around a new group of linemen like you did at A&M, do you tell those guys to keep blocking, because I'm going to be running around for a while?
"I think that's just something that came about on its own. They kind of saw that themselves. As you can tell I believe we have one of best offensive lines in the country. I'm truly blessed as a quarterback to be able to sit back there and have all five of those guys block for me every week. It's something I'm incredibly thankful for. And as the season went on, they kind of adapted to the way that I play a little bit more and kept finishing blocks. As you can tell they've done a phenomenal job all year. It's really something that can't be praised enough."
When you were little, who were you when you played with your friends or played video games? Who were your sports idols back then?
"There were guys I always looked up to back then. Every video game in the early 2000s, the guy you always wanted to be was Michael Vick, you could run circles around a whole defense then step up in the pocket and throw it 70 yards down the field. In the video games that's who you wanted to be like. Then on more of a personal level, John Elway and Doug Flutie are huge guys who I definitely would run around the backyard and try to be like."
What's your favorite play or your signature play this season?
"I think one of my favorite plays all year was our last touchdown against Alabama. That's one of what I believe was our most complete team plays, when you have 11 guys each doing their part to a full degree. Malcome Kennedy runs a great corner route, has a guy draped all over him, and he makes a one-handed catch to score the last touchdown on the road to go on and upset a No. 1 team. That feeling, you will never forget it."
When you went down with the knee injury against Missouri, the whole crowd was holding its breath, what happened there? And were you scared?
"I think was something more of a little tweak, it just kind of scared me a little bit more than it actually was. Obviously I was able to put a knee brace on as a precaution and come back out and still play with the offense, play with the team, and get a win. I think it was a little tweak and something that probably scared me more than it actually was."
How's your relationship with Kliff Kingsbury and how has it grown over the past year?
"Me and Coach Kingsbury, over the past year, our relationship has grown immensely. I remember being on Christmas vacation last year and Coach Kingsbury called me and getting to talk to him for the first time, and really coming away like 'This is a cool guy, this is somebody I can't wait to learn from and be around for multiple years'. As the season's gone on our relationship has grown every day. We've become pretty close."
As the Johnny Football legend has grown and your numbers have escalated, how has life changed for you?
"It's extremely different for me. I'm a small-town kid. I come from Kerrville, Texas, and I still see myself that way. I don't see myself as Johnny Football. I see myself as Jonathan Manziel, small-town guy from Kerrville, who's just extremely fortunate and extremely blessed to be playing football at A&M. Whenever I go out to dinner, and people come up to me and want to take pictures, I guess I'm kind of still shocked by it and I'm not used to the whole thing, even though it's kind of becoming a daily thing."
How much have y'all grown, and specifically how have you grown as a quarterback, since the Florida game?
"I think coming out in the first game of your career you don't know what to expect. You haven't got a live scrimmage, you haven't got to see the speed of everything. So the first half you're running on pure adrenaline and just seeing how everything works. To have some of the success early kind of made you stand back and say whoa, then coming out in the second half and kind of back down to earth after you struggle a little bit. Specifically though, as an offense we've just made incredible strides throughout our passing game, being on the same page, the offensive line protecting incredibly well, catching the ball, establishing the running game. As far as the team we've grown immensely since the game against Florida."
What did you pick up while working with George Whitfield this summer?
"My time with George Whitfield in San Diego was extremely beneficial I believe. I was out there with Logan Thomas, who as most everyone knows is an absolute freak when it comes to the quarterback position. He's a guy who wears XXL shirts and is 6-6, 250 pounds, and can sling the football like nobody's business. To be with Coach Whitfield and him a couple of other guys, in great weather, working with him...he really knows what he's talking about. I believe he's one of the best quarterback coaches in the country for a reason. Even after my time out there and being back in Texas and trying to talk to him every week. He has a busy schedule, and so do I, but I try to keep in touch with him and he always seems to drop a piece of knowledge every time I talk to him on the phone. He's a great guy and I'm very thankful to have him in my life."
Any one thing you can put your finger on that he helped you with, fundamentally or technique-wise?
"I think one thing we worked on is I tend to over-stride a bit when throwing the ball. I feel like I wasn't really utilizing all the power I have in my body and my legs. So I tried to keep everything in my torso and a little more compact with a shorter stride, and get the ball out as quick and as powerful as possible."
When you running around out there what's going on in your head?
"Let's score a touchdown. That's about the only thing. Let's get it in the end zone."
Do you think you'd be starting at quarterback right now if Mike Sherman were still the head coach at A&M?
"I don't really know. I'm not sure. I had a good relationship with Coach Sherman, a good relationship with Coach Rossley. I feel like it would have been a battle just like it was this spring. I can't really tell you the outcome though, because Coach Sumlin came in and as you can tell the coaches have all done a great job, and I feel like Coach Sherman has been extremely successful in Miami as well."
Now that you've played the whole season, how does Florida's defense stack up against the other teams you've faced?
"Florida's defense has definitely been one of the top defenses we played this year, without a doubt. Great group of linebackers, great defensive front and an awesome secondary. That's a recipe for success anytime you have that on your defense. They were extremely quick and they really shut us down there in the second half. We felt like we didn't play to our full potential but have to give credit to that defense."
What was one thing that they did very well that was unique to Florida?
"They did a good job of staying with our receivers even when we did get out and scramble. Their linebackers had unique speed where they could really stretch the field and run the field. And with their secondary as well, they kind of didn't really give us any wiggle room even when we did get out of the pocket."
Can you tell us who the most influential individuals are in your life outside of football?
"There's a couple of people that really do have a big influence on my life. Coach Julius Scott, my high school coach, who I talk to every week. We have great talks, not only about football, but there are times we need to get away from football and just talk about life and talk about old times in Kerrville, just everything...golf. Whatever it may be. I have a relationship with Coach Smith as well, and he's in San Antonio now, and I keep in touch with him and make sure his family is doing good and see how their quarterbacks are doing at Judson and see how their team is doing. And also Coach Kingsbury and Coach Sumlin are people I feel I can come to and talk to anytime I need something. They're here for me always and I'm so thankful for that."
What do you think the struggles in the Ole Miss game that y'all were able to overcome did for the development of your career?
"It just shows you can't turn the ball over and win games. I know we pulled it out, but six turnovers in a game...I'd like to see the statistics on how many times you turn the ball over six times and still win the game. So the big message from that, and I think we did a good job as a team of that through the year, is don't give the ball to the other team. If we keep it we feel like we have better shot of winning the game."
List five or 10 quarterbacks in college football right now you love to watch...guys you enjoy watch play...
"There are a ton of excellent quarterbacks out there right now. As you can tell, there's guys lighting it up each week. There's Taj Boyd, what did he score, seven or eight touchdowns the week before? You have Landry Jones, who is incredible. Geno Smith. And the list goes on. You can't point out just five or 10, because there's 20 or 30 guys. Braxton Miller at Ohio State. There are people everywhere doing really incredible things."
You said you were a small-town guy from Kerrville, I guess the folks in Tyler might want to claim you too? Would you claim Tyler as a hometown as well?
"I definitely will. I feel like I have a little bit of a joint hometown. I was born and raised in Tyler and I stayed there until I was 14 or 15, then moved down to Kerrville. It was really hard for me to leave Tyler at the time. I was halfway through seventh grade, so it was a time in middle school where it was kind of weird to leave all the friends I'd grown up with. I had a great time in both places and I'm really fortunate to grow up in both places. Both are awesome towns with great people. I've been very fortunate to be able to live in both."
You said earlier that the nickname Johnny Football kind of fits, what did you mean by that?
"Me and (A&M SID Alan Cannon) were laughing about that other day. Obviously my name is Johnny and I've been playing football since I was six years old. So I guess that's how it kind of fits."
You've probably heard people that said it was really cool what you did at Tivy but that is never going to work in college or in the SEC. Did you hear that kind of stuff and did you ever wonder if it would work?
"I guess I never really intend on going out there and running around and freelancing. It's just kind of an instinct for me that takes over. I would love to step back, take a three-step drop, hitch and get the ball out and not have to worry about running around in circles or whatever it may be. I think preseason here at A&M we heard plenty of things that we couldn't do. There was a list of things we couldn't do. That's something definitely that I heard and a lot of other people on the team heard."
Did you hear how silent crowd got when you went down last week and what did it mean to hear people chant your name?
"It's a true testament of how Aggie fans are, especially how all the students and the 12th Man are at our games. You saw Ryan Swope go down last year and you could hear a pin drop in that place, and then you hear a 'Swope, Swope, Swope' chant...it makes you want to pop up and do a couple of backflips regardless of how hurt you are. I think it's a true testament as to how A&M fans are in a game. I feel like regardless of whether it was me or another team, the place will still be quiet with respect for the player, and whenever they get up there's going to be a loud roar, regardless of who it is."
After 12 starts, is there anything you'd go back and tell yourself prior to the Florida game?
"I don't know I'd want to go back and do it all over again. We've had a ton of success. Obviously we feel like we put ourselves in an opportunity to win every game, and that's just kind of how it went. If I could go back then though, I don't really remember what I was thinking or what thoughts I had going through my mind. I obviously didn't know the success of our team would be this big, but it's something I'm truly thankful for. It's been a heck of a ride so far."
Talk about your maturing as person off the field, as success has grown and the magnifying glass has gotten bigger...
"It's made me a lot more aware of my surroundings and the places I'm at at all times, that's for sure. It's changed my lifestyle immensely. I talked to Coach Whitfield about this, and he told me that you'll hear it from Cam when you talk to him, you'll hear it from Vince Young, you'll hear it from everybody, that whenever stuff like this happens you become more of a homebody and you pick your closest friends in your life that you really love and you hang out with them and your family and you become more of a homebody. It's not that you don't want to go out, it's just that I guess you want to relax and stay at home more."
How do you not get caught up in it?
"There's so much going on in my life, I don't really have time to read articles or really hear what people say. I know Twitter has become a thing where it's almost impossible to not see it, but with finals coming up and bowl practices coming up and workouts, you can get distracted by all the other stuff in your life. I guess you can make sure that there are other priorities in your life that take over reading about whatever the article or whatever may be."
How different are things around campus from last year or even from the first of the semester?
"It's just different walking around campus and people knowing who you are and wanting to take pictures with you and just say good job. The thing about being here at A&M though is there's a great group of students and professors here...everyone you're going to run into on campus will be incredibly polite. I think that's how most of the Aggies are on campus, and I think that's something that really is awesome, to get to interact with them and meet people each and every day you walk around campus."
At a very tradition-rich school, have you ever allowed yourself to envision John David Crow and you...Heisman Trophy winners at A&M?
"My dad goes down and tries to talk to him every game. They've built a little bit of a relationship. I haven't got the chance to talk to him much. But if that dream were to come true and I were fortunate enough to win the Heisman Trophy and bring it back to Aggieland, it would be something that would be an incredible honor and something I'd never forget."
Talk about the transition from high school to college football, and what was difficult for you and why you think it was able to work out so well...
"The biggest thing is the speed of the game from high school to college. I remember being a sophomore in high school and thinking these kids are the fastest things I've ever seen, and then studying more film, and learning more, and going to more camps, and working with my coaches more, junior year it starts to slow down a little bit. Then senior year it's going so slow. Then whenever you run around on the field against Florida, and guys are running around and flying around everywhere, it's a big jump. One of the biggest things I'd tell a high school recruit today is the game is fast. I believe the success that I've had is just a testament to how good our team is and how good the surrounding cast is. I believe like I said we have one of the greatest offensive lines in the country, and a really, really solid receiving corps, and a great group of running backs. It just goes to show that the guys on our team, even on our defense and all around, are incredibly talented.
What's your favorite nickname you've had and how does Johnny Football kind of fit?
"I don't know if' I'd be able to rank them. Whatever people kind of throw out there, any of it, it's kind of funny. Hearing Rece Davis on ESPN sometimes call me Scooby Doo, it's kind of funny. The whole Halloween night was something where a lot of guys on the team dressed up and kind of just wanted to get away from all the seriousness and the grind that is this football season and go out and be kids again, dress up and just have fun."
Out of the improvisational-only category, which one of your plays do you like the best?
"The touchdown against Arkansas , where I guess I ran around in a circle a little bit, that gets thrown out there. That was something was just fun and something I didn't really realize, it just kind of happened. I tried to get the ball to Mike Evans, then I just escaped the pocket a little bit and just tried to get back to the other side of the field just to throw a touchdown pass and I ended up running around in a circle and getting in the end zone. It was kind of funny to see. It also got another touchdown for us. That was the main goal."
People think you're fearless when you get out on the field. Was it different going into the Florida game?
"The thing I tried to tell myself before the Florida game was there's no reason to be nervous. All eyes are on you and all eyes are on this freshman quarterback with his first start ever. But I knew my teammates were counting on me to make sure we push the tempo and make sure I led this guys and see what happens when the clock strikes zero, if we're going to come out and fight to the end. I feel like that's what we did even though we came out a little short."
A smack talk question...what have you heard most from opposing players, especially as it got later in the season?
"I felt like the only thing people really ever said to me...whenever we were going through the games, I just tried to get back to the huddle and keep my team focused on what we're trying to do...but I would get tackled a few times and people would say 'Hey, you're really small. You're not as big as we'd thought'. Other than that there was nothing else that I heard, or I stuck around to hear, if there was any talk."
Can you describe your personality on the field?
"I just try to give off energy and give off, 'Look I'm going to play this game, and this next play, and this whole drive and every snap from here on out with my heart on my sleeve. And I'm going to go on and fight for each and every one of you guys on this field right now. And I'm going to try and push this ball down the field with y'all and y'all are going to help me. We're going to try and get this thing in the end zone. But I want y'all to know that I'm going to fight with my full heart every single play in every game'."
Would you tell us which is the best defense you've faced this year?
"I don't know if you can pick out one specific one. We're in the SEC. Every defense you face has a new challenge. Each place we went we had a strong defense that presented us a challenge."
What would it mean to be mentioned in same paragraph with Earl Campbell, and also the fact that it could be the second consecutive year that a high school player from Texas has won the Heisman Trophy?
"Even to be mentioned in same question with Earl Campbell is something that's pretty ridiculous, because of all the success he's had not only in college but in the NFL. He's one of the greatest players to ever play the game. To ever be even mentioned in anything with him is pretty incredible. And about the second question, like I said earlier, if that's something, that dream come true actually happens and something I'm fortunate and blessed enough to receive and bring it back to Texas and Texas A&M, then that'll be an incredibly great feeling."
Take us through that play at Louisiana Tech that didn't even count, when you chased down two defenders and forced a fumble...
"That's something that whenever you sit at home on a Thursday night or in the hotel Friday night, and you're picturing how the game could go, just thinking whenever I throw a pick and I'm chasing the guy down and he's trying to score a touchdown, my goal every time is I want the ball back. I want to strip the ball, get it back and I want to score a touchdown on the same play. That was something that I told myself if I ever got the opportunity to do, I was going to do everything I could to make sure that we got the ball back and they didn't move the ball another yard. So when it actually happened against Louisiana Tech...I couldn't tell whether the whistle has been blown or not, but I saw him take off and I just told myself that I wasn't going to let this guy take this all the way back to the house. There was no way I was going to let him score. Then when I saw him carrying the ball loose, I was like oh, I have a chance to get this. Then when the ball pop out and I saw another guy catch it, I was like here we go again. I wanted to strip the next guy, to be honest. I guess that's how I play the game. I play with a lot of heart. I'm never going quit for this team, ever."
How difficult or easy a decision was it for you when Coach Rossley started visiting you and coming after you, and eventually you decommitting from Oregon?
"It definitely wasn't an easy decision. I'd always told myself whenever I committed to a school that I wanted to sick with that. Then after having a lot of heart-to-hearts with my parents and my family. My sister is 17 years old in high school, and me being in Oregon it would be hard to continue our relationship even though we'd talk as much as possible...just not being able to see my family, and me being just a true Texas kid, it was something that wasn't an easy decision but I felt like it was the right one. I had a lot of respect for Coach Kelly and was extremely honored to even get an offer from the University of Oregon. I feel like I came to Texas A&M for great reasons, with the tradition, with Coach Sherman when he was here, with all the great people involved with Texas A&M and the Aggie network. It's been an absolute dream come true being able to be here."
Assuming your game is still evolving, can you imagine what your game will be like a few years later?
"I feel like just putting in more work in the spring and going back and working with Coach Whitfield, and working with Coach Kingsbury, and continuing to learn the offense every day, I feel like it can cut down a little bit on those improvisation plays and I can play a little bit more within the system. That's something that as I continue to learn the offense and the game hopefully continues to slow down a little bit, this team will continue to have success."
What's your major and what final you most concerned about?
"I'm a business major right now. All my finals I put an equal amount into all of them to make sure I do what I need to do in the classroom."
Where were you when you first heard the comments by LSU's Sam Montgomery and what did that mean to you?
"I think I was at home, playing video games, or just watching TV. I remember them asking him a question about Texas A&M beating Alabama, and him saying that is something that truly is humbling, to see one of I believe the best players in the SEC say that about me. I have so much respect for the guy, not for those comments but how he plays the game. You saw him wear Marcus Lattimore's number on his tape. That's a true testament to how the kid is. He definitely has my utmost respect."
Getting back to your commitment, you obviously made the right decision, but can you envision competing against Marcus Mariota?
"He's been absolutely lighting it up for Oregon up there. I know Chip Kelly is excited to have him for the next three years. He's a guy that I got a chance to really get to know through the recruiting process. We actually played in a bowl game together after our senior year and we were actually on the same team. We were out on visits together to Oregon at the same time, going through the camp together. I haven't gotten a chance to talk to him since the season has been going on, but he's a really incredibly gifted athlete and a great quarterback and I'm so happy for the success he's had this year. It really is good and I'm very happy for him."
What you think happened had y'all competed against each other? What would that have been like in training camp?
"I love watching the kid play. It would definitely have been a battle. Anytime you have a competition, I know how Marcus is, and Marcus knows how I am, that we're going to go out and compete to the best of our ability. I can't tell you what the result would have been if that were to happen because it's kind of a what if. I know I would have been just wowed by some of the plays he makes because I do remember him in the bowl game and how he played, and even in high school."
Going back to August, who told you you would be the starter and how did that go?
"Coach Kingsbury was the guy that told me. He called me in, I didn't really know exactly what he wanted, I didn't know if he wanted to go over practice that day since we had a scrimmage, or what it was. But I remember sitting down in his office, him telling me that, and the excitement that came about. It's a dream come true to play quarterback at any Division I college in the world, but especially Texas A&M University. It's something that I could have only dreamed of and I'm so, so fortunate to have the opportunity to play here."
Do you remember what happened after? What was the celebration?
"I remember calling my mom my dad and my sister, and being a little emotional, and telling them I'd been named the starter. From there, had family call in, so it was more of talking to family, talking to my best friends, and telling them. And they were extremely happy for me. They knew how much I'd worked since I was a little kid. Being a quarterback and getting a chance to start, it was a great experience."
How surreal does this year seem? You beat No. 1 at their place, you may win the Heisman. No one really dreams that reality will play out like a fantasy, do they?
"No sir, not at all. This season has been incredibly, incredibly surreal. It's beyond my wildest imagination. Like I said earlier, it's a true testament to how this team has grown each and every week, because without these guys none of my individual success would be anything. As a team we've grown. We've taken huge strides. It really is a testament to this coaching staff and this group of guys involved with this program."
How cautious do you have to be now that you are a celebrity and people know who you are?
"Still to this day I don't see myself as a celebrity. I feel like I'm just like any other kid going to college here, going to A&M. Just going to school. And I have the opportunity to play football. I talk to Coach Whitfield, and Coach Sumlin, and Coach Kingsbury, and they understand how this stuff goes. So they just made me more aware of my surroundings and made me more cautious, that everything I do is going to be watched."
Can you talk about anything that may have been a surprise to you this year?
"I think going into the season I guess I didn't really think our record would be what it is now. That's not really saying we weren't going to be good or anything like that. But with all the talk about how incredibly talented the SEC is and how good teams are and these defenses and people saying we have a gimmicky offense, you hear so much from the outside sources I guess it kind of brings you down a little bit. But after you go through fall camp with these guys and you really get to see how this team has the potential to be, I guess you start realizing we can do this and do that and you set your goals a lot higher."
You talked about your favorite points of the season, but can you talk about maybe the low point of the season, or the struggle of the season?
"Whenever we got backed up to our own 1-yard line against Ole Miss and we take sack on the one, and it's now 3rd and 30 or whatever and we had six turnovers already in the game, and it's looking like you are about to lose this game, that's a low point right there. Then to think you turn that negative to a positive when you throw a 40-yard pass, a jump ball to Mike Evans, who makes an incredibly, incredibly awesome play, to get us out of a little bit of a hole. Then move the ball down the field and get a quick score, then our defense turns around and gets us the ball back on a fourth-down stop. And then Ryan Swope catches an awesome touchdown pass in the back of the end zone, great catch, great route. And we come back and win the game with a turnover on defense. That's a testament to how our team has been all year and how we fought back and really came together as a unit."
Have you thought about the timing of your outstanding season and this team's outstanding season, going to a new conference and establishing A&M on the college football map?
"I feel like we're definitely trying to bring excitement back to this program and back to this football team. Not that there hasn't been any in the past, but I feel like with Coach Sumlin coming in he brings a younger, a more excitement into the program. Who would have thought that Texas A&M would wear black jerseys in a game against Mississippi State? With a school that has so much tradition, Coach Sumlin has come in and really tried to excite the place and ignite everything there is about this. People here involved with the program and Texas A&M, they're die-hard fans. They want nothing more than to win and they're classy about it. I feel like Coach Sumlin coming in and bringing a spark and really igniting this program is something that will really do wonders."
And you're adding a spark, can you speak to that?
"Without this group of guys, without one of the best offensive lines in the country without a solid defense, a solid receiving corps, an outstanding group of running backs, my individual success wouldn't be possible. I guess the way I play the game, with a lot of heart and wearing my emotions on my sleeve, hopefully that has an impact on people wanting to come here and play football with every single guy on this team, not just myself."
You've talked a little about life-changing stuff, any specific moments or humorous moments stand out?
"I guess just the thing that's caught me off guard is going to dinner and somebody saying 'Hey, can we get your autograph' or 'Do you mind if you take a picture with my son?' I guess I haven't really grasped the whole entirety of it yet. Going out to dinner and having a kid come up and want to take a picture with me, it's something that makes my day. I don't really see myself as that yet but I guess other people do."
Have you seen some of the videos on YouTube of people singing songs to you and about you?
"I try to stay away from reading too much about my individual stuff or what other people are saying. I will try and read some stuff about the SEC and college football. I'm a big fan of college football and everything about it. I try and stay involved with that and keep up with that, but as far as individual stuff I try and shy away. The only YouTube video I've seen is of a little girl, her family videotaped her and she said she was my No. 1 fan. I actually got a chance to meet her a couple times after a football game. That's something that really makes your heart feel good and really makes you realize what kind of an impact not only me but what this whole team has on this community and this University."