HOOVER, Ala.– The circus came to town on day two of SEC media days, Ringling Brothers, Manziel and A&M were front and center bright and early.
Flashbulbs popped and a swarm of bodies followed the Heisman winner from room to room as he descended on his first SEC media days, it was a sight to see the amount of attention given to one player.
The media often portrays Johnny Manziel as an out of control kid with a destructive personality. As I followed him from room to room, I didn’t see the type of person that dates a supermodel or flaunts wads of cash on Instagram. I saw a normal 20-year-old, learning how to handle the trappings of immense fame that comes after life goes from zero-sixty in just a matter of months.
“There’s nothing wrong with it [the media frenzy], I love talking to y’all, it’s just another day,” Manziel said.
He has an easy-going way about him, a dispatching charm and a rolling with the punches kind of attitude, taking life as it comes. He makes the most of his opportunities both on the football field and off; the latter is what has landed him into hot water at times over the last few months.
His most recent issues stem from an incident at the Manning passing camp, where he got sent home for skipping a meeting.
“It was a mistake, Eli [Manning] texted me and said ‘I remember missing a meeting at 20 years old, you haven’t done anything that we haven’t done.’ It was an absolute accident. The thing was, I didn’t want to go in and say that. I didn’t want to blame it on an alarm clock. I wanted to go in there and say this is my fault, I take full responsibility for this,” Manziel said.
I empathize with Manziel personally. There’s no way I’ll ever experience the fame that comes with winning a Heisman trophy, but as a 20-year-old myself, I know what it’s like to make mistakes that are only natural during the process of growing up and having to own up to them in front of peers, parents and those you look up to.
To his credit, he is contrite, apologetic and mature about the things he’s done. Part of being a man is owning up to the mistakes you make, and that’s something Manziel did often on Wednesday.
Most questions posed to him weren’t about football, when you shine in the public eye so brightly –for better or for worse– during the lulls of the offseason nobody cares about X’s and O’s.
Through three separate rooms, the questions came over and over about things off the football field. His problems are important topics of conversation, but he knows the best way to respond to them.
“Maybe at a few points in time it was blown out of proportion a litle bit, I should have known better being at the position I’m in. I made mistakes; I’ll try not to make the same ones twice, just continue to move forward. August 4th can’t get here fast enough, I’m ready to stop all the talking and do all my talking on the field,“ Manziel said.
As I write this article, Manziel is on a plane headed to Los Angeles to take part in the fanfare surrounding the ESPY awards. It may surprise you who the most popular college kid in the United States of America decided to take as arm candy.
“I invited my sister to go with me, she kinda gets a little overshadowed in this sometimes. So to make her day a little bit and let her get dressed up and come have some fun with me is awesome,” Manziel said.
This is the softer side of Johnny Football. The one you don’t see on Twitter or read about on ESPN’s bottom line. He’s a kid from Tyler, Tx. that happens to be a pretty decent football player. A star that’s risen higher and faster than anyone could have predicted.
“At the end of the day, I hope that people see that I’m just a 20-year-old kid in college…I’m just trying to enjoy my life, hopefully that doesn’t affect too many people. I’m continuing to learn as the days and weeks go on. I’ve made my mistakes, obviously I need to learn from them and not make the same ones twice.”
He will continue to make mistakes, some little and some big, but for Johnny Manziel it’s not something that gets him down. He’s just taking it all in stride.
“You have to continue to live life, you’re gonna hit bumps in the road, it’s part of life.”