KERRVILLE - On the eve of the NFL draft Jim Muncie is readying yet another celebration in the man-cave at his Guadalupe River home where an entire wall – the Johnny Wall he calls it – is dedicated to the legend of Kerrville’s favorite Heisman-winning son.
“Oh I feel like he’s my kid. You know I’ve tried to adopt that kid a thousand times,” Muncie said with a laugh talking about the football-playing phenom he’s counted as a family friend since Johnny Manziel was just beginning his legendary run in Kerrville in the Texas Hill Country.
Muncie was a high school radio announcer and, standing next to a collage of Manziel memorabilia on the “Johnny Wall” in his Hunt, Texas home, recalled the first time he saw Manziel as a sophomore quarterback on the varsity team at Tivy High School. The play-by-play team began playing Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” as the wiry 16-year-old with size 15 shoes began leaving bigger and older players in his wake. To this day Muncie still has a “Go Johnny Go” bumper sticker on his truck.
And as the NFL draft draws near, Muncie says that’s the question in Kerrville now.
“I think you can go anywhere in this town, it doesn’t matter whether it’s the post office , the hospital, wherever, everybody’s question is gonna be where is Johnny gonna go?”
Even Kerrville Mayor Jack Pratt agreed to field that question.
“If he becomes a Houston Texan I imagine there’ll be a big celebration here,” said Pratt. “But I just want what’s best for him. And I think Kerrville wants the same.”
Angela Riedle has never met Manziel. But we found her walking down Water Street in downtown Kerrville wearing an Arian Foster Jersey.
"I hope he becomes a Texan too,” she said. “He's from Texas. He should stay with his state!"
“Once you see him play you’re a fan for life,” said close family friend Jan Lynch. The owner of Kerrville’s Rustic Elegance proudly displays at her furniture store a framed photograph of herself and Manziel standing with the Heisman Trophy. Along with Jim Muncie she joined the Manziel entourage in New York City in 2012 when he captured college football’s biggest prize. The Heisman “Welcome Home” banner is still hanging above the front door of her store. And at her booth at the 2014 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo she advertised with a “Keep Johnny in Texas “banner and handed out soft drink and beer koozies with the same slogan.
“I hope he ends up in Houston I really do. There’s gonna be a lot of fans who are gonna want to buy those tickets,” said Lynch.
At Kerrville’s Tivy High School where the Johnny legend began and where Manziel’s multiple trophies still sit in hallway display cases, his former coaches are convinced the Houston Texans should make him the first pick in the draft.
"People around here are pretty proud,” said Tivy wide receivers coach Steve Rippee. “"I think he's going to be very successful in the NFL, I do. He just makes people better that are around him. He just has that sense about him."
"I'd love to see him go to the Texans I would. I think it would be beneficial for everybody involved."
"I think that everybody loves the legend of Johnny,” added offensive line coach Adam Brackeen. “I'd tell anybody, if you have the opportunity to draft him you better draft him."
But back at his “Johnny Wall” of photos and newspaper clippings that commemorate Manziel’s high school and college exploits, there is no one more convinced than Jim Muncie.
“I just can’t imagine the Texans having this opportunity and blowing it,” said Muncie. “Certainly we’d love to see that kid as a Texan. That would just be a dream come true.”
Meanwhile the Kerrville Mayor says he has received requests to rename a downtown street after Johnny. Some have even made serious inquiries about erecting a Johnny Football statue in the heart of the town. Those requests are on hold.
For now Kerrville is just focused on making him a Houston Texan.
“I don’t see any reason in the world the Texans don’t jump all over Johnny as the number one pick. It’s not a gamble. It’s a lock,” said Muncie.
“Well what if they don’t,” I asked him.
“Then Johnny’s going to come back to haunt ‘em,” he said. “As far as being in the NFL, I don’t have any doubt whatsoever that kid is gonna shine.”
And his hometown plans to bask in that glow wherever Johnny goes.