Few college football players in NCAA history have been as polarizing as Johnny Manziel, the star quarterback for Texas A&M University. He plays the game with a chip on his shoulder, and loves to talk trash, taunt, and do everything else he can to aggravate opponents. But it’s his play that is giving his opponents headaches. The Southeastern Conference (SEC) is widely regarded as the nation’s top conference, with powerhouses like Alabama and LSU routinely in the top 10 year after year. He broke the SEC record for total yards in a season with over 5,100, as a freshman. His immense popularity brings to mind a former SEC quarterback, Tim Tebow. But Manziel, aka Johnny Football, is much different than the devout Christian that Tebow was. Last season, Manziel became the first freshman to ever win the Heisman Trophy, awarded to the nation’s most outstanding college football player. What followed was a tumultuous offseason that is surely to concern NFL teams when Johnny declares for the draft. Wherever he ends up, he’ll be the face of the franchise, and that might not be such a good thing.
The following is a timeline detailing Manziel’s antics following last season’s bowl game:
- Following his Cotton Bowl win over Oklahoma, he visited the Winstar Casino in Oklahoma for some gambling. While there, he and his teammates flashed wads of cash and he later tweeted, “Nothing illegal about being 18+ in a casino and winning money…KEEP HATING!” What was illegal was him drinking bottles of champagne the same night (he had just turned 20). And yes, that is Dom Perignon in his hand.
- Later in the month, he sat courtside at a Rockets-Clippers game in L.A. By comparison, I was starting the second semester of my junior year.
- He also made this video, which is actually pretty awesome.
- Johnny was at the Super Bowl in New Orleans (field level, of course). He also partied at Mardi Gras, posing for pictures with Ole Miss football players, Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel.
- Spring practice began, and Johnny shoved a graduate assistant after throwing a pick during a scrimmage.
- The next couple months were uneventful, Johnny threw out first pitches at Texas Rangers and San Diego Padres’ games, but nothing negative.
- Manziel tweets “(Expletive) like tonight is a reason why I can’t wait to leave College Station…whenever it may be.” He followed that up by tweeting, “Don’t ever forget that I love A&M with all my heart, but please, please walk a day in my shoes.” The tweets were soon deleted and he blamed them on a parking ticket he had received.
- Left the famed Manning Passing Academy after missing early-morning meetings. Manziel apologized at SEC Media Days, saying: “I simply overslept. There’s nothing more to talk, and the rumors about the other things weren’t really true.” The rumors he’s referring to? That he was out the previous night drinking. Here’s an article with some interesting quotes from Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, Johnny’s roommate at the camp.
- Pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor stemming from a 2012 bar fight in College Station. Manziel admitted to failure to identify. Other charges against him, including disorderly conduct, were dismissed.
- Was photographed attending parties at University of Texas fraternities, UT is A&M’s biggest in-state rival and until the recent conference realignment, they played one another every year in the Big 12 conference. He was also videotaped leaving a frat party at UT with a soaking wet pink polo (presumably from beer being dumped on him) and was heckled as he did so.
- An ESPN story with Manziel’s parents revealed that Manziel underwent alcohol counseling and therapy for anger issues.
- The day before Texas A&M’s first practice, ESPN’s Outside The Lines reported that Manziel agreed to sign memorabilia in exchange for a “five-figure flat fee” during a visit to the site of the BCS National Championship. He would miss the first half of the first game of the season. Making money off your own name is prohibited by the NCAA (although they make billions off the athletes, but that’s another story).
Now let’s look at a couple other players who the NCAA has reprimanded in the past for violations that are arguably much less severe:
Dez Bryant was suspended 10 games for having a meal with former NFL player Deion Sanders and lying about it. 10 GAMES! Now look at Manziel’s track record over about 8 or 9 months and recognize that he only missed one half of a game.
Georgia’s AJ Green was suspended 4 games for selling a jersey of his for $1,000 to an agent.
Let me be clear, since this probably seems slanted, I love everything about the guy. He’s flashy and extremely cocky, but he backs it up on the field. Plus, he gets to do all sorts of awesome stuff off the field, who wouldn’t want to live up your college years like he’s doing? This year, he seems more focused than ever, due in part to his horrendous defense that forces him to outscore the opposition. That makes Texas A&M must-see television each Saturday
The NFL is a business, and businesses don’t like character issues. Johnny seems to have quite a few to straighten out before he gets there. It will be interesting to see how his draft stock rises or falls leading up to the draft, and if teams will shy away from him because of these past instances (see Tyrann Mathieu & Adam “Pac-Man” Jones). Marketing the “Johnny Football” brand will not be much of an issue for whatever franchise he joins, he’s clearly fine with the spotlight. The talent seems to be there too, but does he have the leadership qualities and maturity that are so vital to NFL success? We’ll find out soon enough, but in the meantime, I’m just waiting to see what Johnny Football does next.