Rush to compare new and old college players irritating


By Alex Wise / Staff Writer

As a self-proclaimed healthcare professional, I’ve been trying to think of a clever name for the medical condition that’s crippling college football.

This condition has caused frustration and rage to build inside of me. The disease is symptomized by the inability to stop comparing a new player to the one he’s replacing and the incessant need to give past players more attention than those on the field. McCarron’s Disease isn’t devastating-sounding enough, as victims still get to date supermodels, and Tebowitis doesn’t quite have a ring to it. I guess that means I’m sticking with the original term: Johnny Football Syndrome.

Last Thursday, Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill started the first game of his career as an Aggie. The sophomore completed 46 of 60 passes for 511 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions on the road against a preseason top-10 team. In other words: an impressive debut.

According to the popular opinion, though, Johnny Manziel’s spirit departed from Cleveland to possess the body of Hill and lead A&M to victory over South Carolina.

Everything Hill did was qualified comparatively to Johnny Football. Manziel’s name has been mentioned in conjunction with Hill’s more times in the past week than pepper has been with salt. Pass or scramble, Hill “looked like Johnny.” First down or fourth down, Hill “played like Johnny.” Hill was arrested for public intoxication in the spring, so he “must love partying” the way Johnny did.

Forgive me if I sound like a hippie, but can’t we let Hill enjoy his moment? Don’t get me wrong, Manziel was great. He’s the only person I’ve seen consistently complete Hail Mary passes after scrambling 20 yards into his own backfield. But Manziel is gone, which is why I don’t understand how he continues to grab headlines in the wake of a career performance by his successor.

This phenomenon was at work for A&M’s opponent, too. I watched the entire game on Thursday, and I still don’t think I could name a single player on South Carolina’s defense. That’s because the Gamecocks were feeling the unfortunate effects of a Clowney Infection. Note: for a fun game, answer the following questions in your head at home.

“How will this defense be different without Jadeveon Clowney?” Well, he’s not here, so …

“What will South Carolina have to do to replace Clowney?” Find the place on the field that Clowney used to play and put somebody else there.

“How do you think Clowney will fare in the NFL?” Aren’t we watching college football?

Without proper antibiotics in the form of big third-down stops and sacks, the Clowney Infection will spread. And, as Hill picked apart the Gamecock defense to the tune of 52 points, the “Boy, they could really use Clowney’s help right now!” comments increased. On that note, I feel terrible for whoever starts at running back for Georgia after Todd Gurley’s inevitable ascent to the NFL. 

Perhaps we don’t understand that college football isn’t like our favorite sitcom. When Lily called off her wedding to Marshall and left for San Francisco in “How I Met Your Mother,” there was nothing preventing her return. Unfortunately, NCAA eligibility rules don’t have a Lily Aldrin Addendum that allows unconditional returns. These guys are gone. The sooner we realize that – spoiler alert – there are other good players in the world, the less annoyed we’ll all be.

Think back to last year. As Pitt students, we remember Labor Day 2013 distinctly (well, I guess that depends on your state of mind): a primetime, nationally televised, old-fashioned whooping at the hands of Florida State and their redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston. I vividly recall a game-day discussion on whether or not this freshman quarterback would be able to fill the hole left open by E.J. Manuel’s departure for the NFL. Winston threw for 356 yards and four touchdowns in that Labor Day game.

Then he tore up the entire ACC.

Then he won the Heisman Trophy.

Then he led the Seminoles to a national title.

Then he stole some crab legs.

OK, so the last part is irrelevant. My point is that the departure of great players doesn’t leave a gaping hole that’s impossible to fill. Rather, it leaves an opportunity for somebody else to step up and make a name for himself.

Hill made a name for himself. Literally. The heir to Manziel’s throne had to create his own nickname to prevent “Kenny Football” from catching on. Once again, what does Kenny Hill – sorry, Kenny Trill – have to do to step out of Johnny’s shadow?

Maybe he, like Winston, will replicate his Week 1 performance a few times and make the A&M fans fall in love with him. But, if he doesn’t, it’ll be a long college football season for all of us.


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