For Texas A&M, which has spent much of 2012 in the national spotlight, tonight will be a night in the literal spotlight. The Home Depot College Football Awards are tonight, and both Johnny Manziel and Luke Joeckel are up for for awards. For Joeckel, it's the Outland Trophy, given annually to the nation's best offensive lineman. For Manziel, it's the Davey O'Brien (best quarterback) and the Maxwell (best player) awards.
Could Luke Joeckel, perhaps the nation's best offensive lineman, return for his senior season?
Before they get the awards though, they first have to meet the media. And nobody has been a bigger star this week in Orlando than A&M's own “Johnny Football.” Joeckel, who has been met the media as well, told 12th Man Magazine's Rusty Burson that people only talk to him for one reason.
"People just come to me to ask me questions about Johnny. He's the one everyone wants to talk to,” he joked.
Wrote Matt Murschel of the Orlando Sentinel,
“The mystique of Johnny Manziel has grown to the legendary status of Bigfoot or the chupacabra.
He's the Paul Bunyan of college football, reaching almost an iconic status. His moniker — Johnny Football — even invokes an almost hero-like quality with the quarterback standing seven-feet-tall and able to single-handedly win games with both his arm and legs.”
There's no doubt that this week is Manziel's week in the spotlight. With the Home Depot Awards tonight and the Heisman Trophy on Saturday, this week will definitely be all about Manziel.
Perhaps though, it should be about Luke Joeckel. After all, we know that Johnny Manziel will be back in the maroon and white next season. But Joeckel is part of a trio of juniors that could make the difference in A&M having another good season in 2012, and perhaps A&M starting the season as the top ranked team in the country.
Joeckel certainly has good reasons to go to the NFL, but he also has reasons to return. For one, he's set to graduate next year, but he could also be a cornerstone of an A&M team that has national championship aspiration. On the other side of the line is fellow first team All-SEC tackle Jake Matthews, who also has reasons to return. For Matthews, the biggest draw might be the chance to play with his younger brother Mike, who figured to be the starter at center next season.
Then there's Damontre Moore, who for reasons that will remain unknown, hasn't been nominated for any of the postseason awards despite being one of the nation's best defensive linemen. Moore, also a first team All-SEC selection, was a dominant force off the edge for the Aggies this season. In a league with players like Sam Montgomery, Barkavious Mingo and Jadaveon Clowney as defensive ends, Moore more than held is own.
That's why even though this week, and the talk of the offseason, is going to be all about Johnny Manziel, it might be the other Aggie nominated tonight and his classmates that do the most this offseason to determine A&M's 2013 season.
For now though, Joeckel hasn't made a decision, and is happy to be standing outside Manziel's spotlight.
“I kind of like being in the background,” he told Kate Hairopoulos of the Dallas Morning news. “But this is a really cool experience.”
“I’m just taking it all in right now,” he added. “It comes up pretty fast. Got about a month and a half to make a decision. I’ll talk it over with my family and coaches. I love Texas A&M; it’s my dream to play in the NFL. We’re going to have to see.”