COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- One of the traits that has made Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel a highlight reel waiting to happen is his ability to improvise.
There are things Manziel does that are unscripted. You won't find them in any playbooks or game plans. It's this part of his game that stood out the most to Texas A&M's only Heisman Trophy winner to date, John David Crow.
When he first watched Manziel play, the 77-year-old Crow was in for a surprise.
"I was like everyone else, I guess, other than the coaches. I was shocked," Crow said. "He has a tremendous amount of instinct -- and I'm not trying to take anything away from the coaches because they're doing a great job -- but he's got so much talent and instinct, things that you can't coach, I don't think. And he uses it."
Crow, a former Texas A&M running back who won the Heisman in 1957, lives in College Station and attends Aggies games, so he gets a chance to see Manziel perform in person. It has been 55 years since an Aggie brought home the Heisman Trophy. Manziel, a redshirt freshman considered by many to be the front-runner to win the 2012 award, could become the second Aggie to win it come Saturday night.
Ask Crow to describe Manziel, and it's hard for him to find the right words. But the Heisman winner has no shortage of positive things to say about the potential new Heisman winner.
"It's hard for me to describe how I look at him or what I think of what he does and so forth," Crow said. "I think God gave him a talent and he's using it to the most that he can get out of it and I praise the heck out of him because he's not an 'I' guy. He's a 'We' guy. ... I think he will make a very, very good example for young people if he does win it."
Crow, who played 11 NFL seasons for the Cardinals and 49ers, earning four trips to the Pro Bowl, had the chance to meet Manziel for the first time in person Tuesday during a photo shoot for the San Antonio Express-News. The pair chatted it up at Kyle Field, and Crow came away impressed with Manziel.
"I certainly think that he will fit in with the group and I think that if he continues the way he's going now, he will certainly bring credit to the Heisman," Crow said. "That's what I think everyone that's connected with it wants, that the people that are selected will keep that in mind, how they hope that they can bring more credit to the Heisman."
Has Manziel wowed Crow at all with his on-field play?
"Oh yeah," Crow said. "The one play he did against Alabama where the ball was knocked out of his hand and he caught it and turned around and whipped around and did a reverse deal and wound up finding a receiver and threw the ball in the end zone ... things like that, I don't think that you can coach that. ... Some things you just have to say that the good Lord did that."
Crow, a College Football Hall of Famer who was inducted in 1976 and spent time as Texas A&M's athletic director from 1988 to '93 before retiring from the university in 2001, is not ready to call the race yet and is patiently waiting for the ceremony to see whether the 20-year-old Manziel does indeed bring home the hardware. If he does, it will be an enjoyable moment for the only other Aggie to accomplish the feat.
"I think that we're speculating on a lot of things," Crow said. "I'm not one to say, 'Well, he's won it because there's a poll that was taken,' or something like that. I will be excited and I will be elated -- hopefully -- when they call the winner out on Saturday."