Manziel in spotlight for Texas A&M against Duke

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Associated Press

Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin says Johnny Manziel surprised observers with his quiet demeanor this season following a series of offseason distractions.

Sumlin said proof of Manziel’s growth also came on the field as he led No. 20 Texas A&M to a spot in Tuesday night’s Chick-fil-A Bowl against No. 22 Duke.

The bowl game could be Manziel’s college farewell. Many expect the third-year sophomore to enter the NFL draft, though he said this week he is “nowhere close” to a decision.

Manziel’s every move was analyzed in his offseason following his Heisman Trophy-winning freshman season. He was tossed from a fraternity party, overslept at the Manning Passing Academy and was the target of an NCAA probe to determine if he signed autographs for money.

All the off-field noise ended with the start of the 2013 season. Manziel served a half-game suspension to close the NCAA issue and then went to work.

“We went through the year and I think people were shocked that he’s kind of quiet,” Sumlin said Monday. “You’ve got the offseason part and then we’ve got the football season. I think he was extremely focused this year.”

Sumlin said Manziel also showed more maturity in his performance.

“I think he moved from an athlete that was playing quarterback to a quarterback that’s an athlete,” Sumlin said. “I think he’s improved as a passer, improved in his knowledge of not only what we’re doing, but his knowledge of defenses, and I think that shows.”

Manziel led the Southeastern Conference with his 69.1 completion percentage and 311 yards passing per game. He is the player to watch as Texas A&M (8-4) tries for bowl wins in three straight seasons for the first time in school history. Duke (10-3) will try for its first bowl win since 1961.

“He’s an outstanding quarterback,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said Monday. “He’s not just an athlete. He beats you in a lot of different ways. Certainly he’s got a great receiving corps. His ability to create plays is second to none. In my lengthy career I really haven’t seen a player that creates and ad-libs as well. It’s certainly in part to his athleticism. But there is coaching involved in that.”

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