I was reading the news during lunch, and this sentence in a sports article about Johnny Manziel jumped out at me:

The Texas A&M product completed 147 of 258 passes for 1,675 yards with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions.

After thinking about it, I believe the author's intention was to say "Manziel, the product of the Texas A&M football program, completed...". That would mean that his ability as a football player was shaped or demonstrated by playing for Texas A&M.

However, my first impression was that the author was intentionally disrespecting the player by calling him a product because his bad behavior off of the playing field has caused his team a lot of grief. Manziel never graduated from Texas A&M, so we can't say something like "The Texas A&M graduate" and be accurate. This may have been a way to stay below the number of characters or words allowed for the article.

Is this just ambiguous wording and perfectly acceptable, or is the phrase "the product of X" not able to be rephrased "X product" without changing the meaning?

I think "Texas A&M product", which seems like a possessive relationship, is different from "product of Texas A&M", which seems like "a result of" relationship, but I don't have any grammatical foundation for it.

  • books.google.com/… – Tᴚoɯɐuo Mar 11 '16 at 18:42
  • What do you see as the difference between "the Texas A&M product" and "The Apple product"? Am I missing something? – JavaLatte Mar 11 '16 at 18:42
  • @JavaLatte A person is not a product. If you are an employee of Apple, you shouldn't be referred to as "The Apple product". It makes it sound like you were manufactured by Apple. – ColleenV Mar 11 '16 at 18:59
  • @TRomano Do you think that is specifically limited to universities or schools of thought? I think the definite article is tripping me up a little - not sure why. – ColleenV Mar 11 '16 at 19:01
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    I think it's just formulaic. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Mar 11 '16 at 22:34

So after doing some digging, using "The X product" to refer to a person seems to be most common in sports where athletes play for a school team before joining a professional team, particularly American football.

Oddly enough Major League Baseball players seem to be "prospects" instead of "products". It may be because they tend to move around Minor League teams instead of going straight from a college or university to a professional team.

The phrasing is also used when describing other people that have graduated from famous universities, like Harvard or Yale. I haven't found "the X product" used in contexts where X isn't a university or school. It also seems only to be used with famous schools, and I'm not sure if that is because less famous schools aren't worth mentioning when writing about someone's background.


The use of product in your phrase

The Texas A&M product

is meant to express that Manzeil abilities as an athlete are the result of the resources and coaching he received while being a Aggie.

It has the same meaning as the saying

We are products of our environment.
She is a product of loving parents and a good education.

We are the result of what is around us

Division I NCAA football is serious business, and football players for those teams are often treated differently than ordinary undergraduates. They may have their own dorms, food halls, sports facilities, and they are surrounded by professional coaches and staff, and for good reason, most alumni donations are a result of athletic success.

Manzeil most definitely had natural talent to begin with (though his debut was as a red shirt freshman), and it is probable that the training he received at Texas A&M helped nurture that talent. The evidence is in the numbers of other professional football players that have come out of that program.

If one wanted to be less kind, such programs could be characterised as factories of a sort where the input raw material are high school athletes and the output products are Heisman Trophy winning professional-ready athletes like Manzeil.

As with any profession, people are associated by their pedigree, where they went to school. Top business schools (Wharton, Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Kellogg) receive more attention than those lower ranked. The same is with athletic programs (Aggies, Sooners, Buckeyes, Hawkeyes, Hoosiers) are all known bastions of athletic prowess.

In your question of Texas A&M product vs a product of Texas A&M, most people may use the two constructions interchangeably, however the former makes a closer association between the product (Manzeil) and the brand (Texas A&M), whereas in the latter, the product may have a stronger stand-alone identity than in the case of the former.

Manzeil and Texas A&M will forever be associated with each other: Manzeil as a product (result) of the Aggie football program, and Texas A&M for producing a freshman Heisman Trophy winner.

  • I appreciate your answer, but I know what the phrase means and how it likens people to products coming out of a factory. I was looking for more of a generalization of the pattern and what situations it could be used in beyond American football. – ColleenV Mar 16 '16 at 14:16
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    I would say using something product has a closer association than product of something just as people would say "that's Julie's son" is different that "that's a son of Julie". The latter implies there may be more sons, whereas the only relationship focussed on in the former is one-to-one (though is not exclusive of having other sons). – Peter Mar 16 '16 at 14:28
  • Something product and product of something aren't interchangeable, so there's something other than stronger association at work here. If I really want to emphasize that Joe is the product of his environment, I can't say "Joe, his environment's product" and be clear. It has something to do with how Texas A&M can be both an adjective and a noun I think. – ColleenV Mar 16 '16 at 16:59

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