By Jeff Mullin, columnist
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Johnny Manziel has a world of talent. Last year’s Heisman Trophy winner threw for 3,706 yards and 26 touchdowns, and ran for 1,410 yards and 21 scores, thus putting his stamp on the 2012 season and his foot on the necks of the Oklahoma Sooners during a 41-13 Texas A&M victory over OU in the Cotton Bowl.
Manziel is projected to have another monster season this fall for the Aggies, and is rumored to be considering turning pro next year.
The only problem is, Johnny Football, as he is known, seems to have a platinum arm, golden legs and a head full of straw. Manziel’s off-the-field activities have managed to draw the spotlight away from his playing prowess. Even before he became the biggest thing in football since Gatorade, Manziel was arrested in June 2012 for fighting outside a bar near the A&M campus. In an interview with Texas Monthly, Manziel revealed he faced a season-long suspension for that malfeasance, but was reinstated on appeal. He pleaded guilty Monday to misdemeanor charges in that case.
In the wake of his dominating Cotton Bowl performance, during which he threw for 287 yards and ran for 227 more, Manziel, only 20, was photographed drinking and partying in a Dallas nightclub.
In February, he announced to reporters that from now on, he would take most of his classes online because he was receiving too much attention.
In June he tweeted his frustration and his desire to leave College Station, then quickly removed the post. His frustration reportedly stemmed from having received a parking ticket.
Then, just the other day, Manziel ran afoul of football’s first family, the Mannings. He was supposed to serve as a counselor at the 2013 Manning Passing Camp in Thibodaux, La., but didn’t finish his assignment because he missed meetings and practice sessions, reportedly due to illness.
Internet reports speculated Archie Manning sent Johnny Football home because of excessive partying, but both the camp and Manziel’s father denied that.
“After missing and being late for practice assignments, Johnny explained that he had been feeling ill. Consequently, we agreed that it was in everyone’s best interest for him to go home a day early,” read a statement released by the Mannings.
Manziel’s father said he was suffering from dehydration. Perhaps he was dehydrated because of the time he spent in a Thibodaux bar, where he was spotted early Friday morning, according to Sports Illustrated.
The Mannings reportedly were unhappy Manziel didn’t even have the courtesy to call in sick, just failed to show up Saturday morning. So they sent him home, where he was photographed in a College Station bar in the wee hours of Sunday morning. Sounds like he was sick to me.
Granted, Manziel is no gangster, no public enemy No. 1, he is only an enormously talented college kid who is sadly lacking in off-field poise and maturity.
He is projected to be a top NFL draft choice whenever he decides to turn pro, but it is time for him to start acting like a grown-up.
Manziel needs to take a lesson from former Notre Dame standout Manti Te’o. He was projected as a high first round draft choice, but fell to the second round after news of his fake dead online girlfriend came to light.
As far as we know, all Johnny Football’s girlfriends are alive, and real, but he is developing a reputation as a flake, a loose cannon.
His job this season will be to demonstrate on-field skills and leadership, to be sure, but off-field maturity, as well. Manziel is feeling his oats and enjoying his status as college football’s next big thing, but he also is jeopardizing his professional future.
Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.