Johnny Manziel was going to win another Heisman. There was no doubt about that on Sept. 14. An offseason fraught with controversy, Twitter wars and Texas frat parties, had melted into pure football for Johnny Football on a steamy central Texas afternoon.
JF was back and, Lord, was it wonderful.
"I've never seen anything like that before," said Alabama's massive offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio.
Neither had a lot of us.
Alabama-Texas A&M was billed way back 3½ months ago as the latest Game of the Century. Alabama had been circling the date -- and the wagons -- since A&M's shocking upset the previous season.
"It was our team against their team," Nick Saban countered. "Don't try to make it out against as a 61-year-old guy against that quarterback."
First of all, no one believed the Alabama coach. His team was in the middle of a 15-game winning streak that would have been 30 games, if not that for that quarterback.
Manziel was special that day. A career-high 464 yards passing special. Five touchdowns special. So special that Kouandjio and his teammates were sometimes reduced to shaking their heads.
"There's a reason he won the Heisman," Bama safety Vinnie Sunseri said. "He's an unbelievable player. I don't care what he does off the field."
Perhaps that was the biggest takeaway from Alabama's 49-42 win that day at Kyle Field. After all the offseason Manziel shenanigans that made us cluck our tongues, this is why we couldn't help but love the little scamp on the field.
Lord, he was a baller. We were halfway looking for a flag to pull from his waist.
"I thought his play was Johnny-like," A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said that day. "Anybody who's seen him play, that's about right."
And we were worried he might have had an underage drink or two at the Manning Passing Academy?
That September day it was almost as if the result wasn't the thing. Sure, Alabama won but Manziel -- at that moment -- had won another Heisman.
He'd faced the nation's best defense and rolled up 628 yards on the Tide -- the most in Alabama's 119-year history. They're still talking about the crazy tackle-breaking, throw-it-up-for-grabs 40-yard completion to Edward Pope.
This wasn't a game, it was a thrill ride.
How anomalous was it for the Tide? Alabama gave up 42 points that day. It gave up a total of 50 points in the next nine games.
Yeah, Johnny was special.
If it's possible for the losing team to win, well, this was it. Texas A&M (with help from Missouri) was in the process of bringing modern offensive football to SEC.
The Aggies had begun the task in 2012 with the win in Tuscaloosa. But that could almost be explained away. The Tide were coming off an emotional win at LSU.
This was different. Way different.
Manziel and the Aggies did whatever they wanted. Time would prove that this was an offense with a quarterback, a couple of receivers and not much else.
The A&M defense was that bad.
Alabama barely kept up. It was down 14-0, then scored five unanswered touchdowns to go up 35-14. Sunseri made a statement by juking past Manziel during a Pick Six touchdown run.
But the Aggies rallied to get with a touchdown -- twice -- the last time with 15 seconds left. In between Manziel had completed a 95-yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans who had a career day himself (seven catches, 279 yards).
Manziel didn't win the Heisman, of course. He and the Aggies were mere mortals, losing four games. But lost in the conversation is that Johnny Football was actually better than his Heisman season.
We'll always have Sept. 14, 2013. When it ended there was no question of what to write. Alabama had won the game. Johnny Football, that day, had changed the game.