As eloquently encapsulated by Ben late this past week, Johnny Manziel‘s life has been a whirlwind over the past year, from exiting spring practice trailing in the Texas A&M quarterback race to a summer arrest to claiming the starting job on the way to a historic Heisman Trophy as part of a stunning SEC debut to myriad off-field “hoopla.”
In particular, Manziel’s offseason since the Aggies’ 28-point thrashing of Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl has been a seemingly daily source of contrived controversies. Exhibit A: a Big 12 assistant stating during a January radio interview that “[i]f they can keep (Manziel) out of jail or keep him eligible, he’s gonna be pretty good.” The bright spotlight shining on Manziel’s every move led A&M’s athletic director to have a sit-down with the player and his parents to discuss how to successfully navigate the sudden and ofttimes crushing trappings of fame.
For his part, though, the quarterback sees the same old Manziel he was prior to Johnny Footballing his way straight into the nation’s consciousness.
“I still see myself as the same person I was before,” Manziel told ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit during an interview.
“We did a lot of great things. I’ve been so blessed to have the done the things I did individually. For me, I don’t see it that way. I still see myself as young, the same guy I was before I ever won the Heisman. Hopefully my friends still feel I’m the same way. I just want people to know I”m still the same person I’ve always been.”
Manziel did allow that his life has been “pure chaos” since winning the Heisman last December, admitting that he doesn’t understand people “freak[ing] out” upon meeting him. “I don’t get it. I don’t understand it,” Manziel said of the attention he’s garnered.
With another trip to a noted quarterback guru planned for the not-too-distant future, Manziel and his Aggie teammates opened spring practice Saturday with expectations as high as they’ve ever been. Collectively, A&M will be looking to somehow improve upon an 11-win season in the school’s first season as a member of the SEC. Individually, Manziel will be looking to become just the second player ever to repeat as a Heisman winner.
As should be expected when it comes to Manziel, however, there’s even drama attached to something that’s nearly a year down the road. As Manziel will be a redshirt sophomore in 2013, and thus three years removed from high school, he would be eligible for the 2014 NFL draft. The speculation is, given the recent success of non-traditional quarterbacks — i.e. not strictly pocket-passing QBs — in the NFL, Manziel might decide and may even be leaning toward early entry into the draft.
During the Herbstreit interview, Manziel didn’t exactly pour cold water on the rumor mill churnings.
“You never know how things might play out. If an opportunity comes to go to the NFL, you have to look at that just like you have to look at everything,” Manziel said. “For me, the NFL is the thing that’s always been, kind of somewhat like the Heisman, it’s been a dream as a kid to be able to have an opportunity to even be talked about being able to play in the NFL.
“For me I’m enjoying my time here for sure and if that comes calling, just like anybody else, the decision will have to be made.”
Manziel did state that he’s “very happy here and very happy with Coach [Kevin] Sumlin and in college football. I love it.”
How long he’ll remain in College Station, unfortunately, will likely be one of the overriding themes as Manziel attempts to replicate in 2013 an unprecedented 2012 season.