- Sam Khan Jr., ESPN Staff Writer
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Throughout his short collegiate career, there have been many terms used to describe Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Whether on or off the field, Manziel sparks discussion, but until recently, there was one word that wasn't frequently used when listing the traits that make the Heisman Trophy winner elite.
Despite his penchant for scrambling and running the football, the redshirt sophomore quarterback has been able to avoid significant injury through his first two collegiate seasons. Things seemed easy for him and he took every hit and got back up.
But in recent weeks, toughness has personified Manziel. After one particular tackle that led to an injury to his throwing shoulder in the fourth quarter of a 45-41 loss to Auburn on Oct. 19, Manziel was down, in visible pain. It became difficult for him even to throw the football.
Manziel missed just a little more than five minutes of game time before returning to finish the game.
And despite his status being questionable and little practice time throughout the following week as he rehabilitated from the injury, Manziel started on Saturday in the Aggies' 56-24 win over Vanderbilt.
He didn't begin throwing until Wednesday and didn't participate in 11-on-11 practice until Friday during the Aggies' walk-through. But Manziel said he was planning to play all along.
"In my mind, I was always going to play," Manziel said. "It would take a lot to keep me off the field and away from these guys. They count on me and they expect me to be there. If I have to come in and get treatment and do whatever I have to do to get back, I have to do it for those guys. This offense and this team means everything to me, so to miss a game, that really wasn't an option for me."
Throughout the week, coach Kevin Sumlin called Manziel's status "hopeful." While Sumlin is known to selective about releasing injury information about his players, he admitted Saturday that Manziel was truly a game-time decision.
When Manziel woke up on Saturday morning, he informed the coaching staff of soreness that he felt in the shoulder, but once he participated in warmups before the game, Manziel felt good enough to go.
"I was a little concerned," Sumlin said. "We really didn't make a decision until warmups. People thought I was being coy, but we didn't really know. We worked [backups Matt] Joeckel and Kenny Hill the whole week."
And it's not simply noteworthy that Manziel has played through pain the last two weeks; he has played at a high level while doing so. After returning for the final 9:06 against Auburn, he completed 9-of-10 passes for 102 yards and ran for a touchdown. On Saturday against Vanderbilt, he remained a pocket passer for most of the day (he carried the ball four times for a career-low 11 yards) and completed 25-of-35 for 305 yards and four touchdowns with just one interception in roughly two-and-a-half quarters of work.
"It just really wasn't in our game plan [against Vanderbilt] for me to run," Manziel said. "My shoulder is just a little sore. I don't know if it was bruised or what all was going on. It kind of got squished when I went down last week against Auburn. But it didn't cause me too many problems [in the game], so that was a positive."
When Manziel led the Aggies' to a come-from-behind win over Ole Miss -- a night in which he briefly after grabbed his left knee in what turned out to be more of a scare than a serious injury -- Sumlin called Manziel "one of the greatest competitors that I've ever been around." Manziel's determination to play the last two games, regardless of the circumstances, seems to support that thought.
"My dad and family were a little cautious about me coming out because they didn't know how severe it was but in my mind, I was always going to play," Manziel said. "I wasn't going to leave these guys without being out there."