KERRVILLE, TX – From Manziel Mania to Johnny Football fever, Kerrville is cheering on its biggest football star after Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel leads his team to a 29-24 victory over Alabama.
Manziel was a standout student athlete at Kerrville’s Tivy High School.
“He was just one of those athletes that don't come around very often,” Tivy High School coach Steve Rippee says.
Rippee coached Manziel in baseball and football and called him a confident athlete who has competition in his DNA.
“When he walks on the field he expects to win,” Rippee says. “He doesn't care who it's against."
He says the young prodigy could have gone pro in baseball but he followed his dreams to become Johnny Football, putting Kerrville on the map.
"I've heard several people talk,” Rippee says. “They'll say they're from Kerrville. ‘Oh, do you know Johnny Manziel?’ ‘Oh yeah, we know Johnny.’”
“There’s nothing better than being quarterback for a winning team,” Tivy High School senior Parks McNeil said.
It’s a lesson Johnny passed down to McNeil, his high school teammate, who’s now the Tivy Antlers quarterback.
“It was big shoes to fill last year,” McNeil says.
Watching your buddy go from the halls of Tivy High School to the height of college football has to be mindblowing – but McNeil says, not if that buddy is Johnny Manziel.
"Not really,” McNeil says. “You watch Johnny in his high school games, you can tell he was going to go somewhere."
But at first, not everyone believed it was possible.
"I walked in. I didn't know who he was,” school receptionist Bessie Fifer says. “‘Well, who are you?’ He said, 'I'm Johnny Manziel.' I thought, ‘Okay.’ One of the kids said, 'He's only going to be the best quarterback at Tivy High School.' I said, ‘Oh, yeah right.’"
Now Fifer sees a different picture: as cheer sponsor, she got to know him on and off the gridiron.
"I knew he'd be famous one day, but not this fast,” she says.
They’re still close, but instead of pep rallies, they now share text messages on game day.
"I texted him, ‘Good luck against Alabama. Win or lose, you'll always be my hero,’” Fifer says. “He texted back, ‘Thank you, love you.’"
And about that nickname Johnny Football: no one can remember the story behind it, they just know it stands for hometown hero.