HOOVER, Ala. — Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel told a room full of reporters Wednesday he didn’t initially realize the magnitude of attention he’d receive this offseason after becoming the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy.
He does now after an offseason loaded with headlines ranging from his appearances at sporting events, Twitter posts and a mysterious camp departure. But college football’s biggest star since Tim Tebow hopes everyone understands the past several months have been the result of a college kid trying to live his life.
“I wouldn’t say fair or unfair,” Manziel said of criticism. “I would say, at times blown a little out of proportion. But at the end of the day I hope people still see that I’m still a 20-year-old kid in college. … I’m just trying to live my life. Hopefully that doesn’t upset too many people. I’m continuing to learn as the days and the weeks go on.”
Manziel’s highly anticipated appearance at SEC Media Days came Wednesday morning with the SEC’s resident rock star answering a long list of questions in front of large crowds. The most pressing topic centered on his early departure from the prestigious Manning Passing Academy last week, which led to rumors and reports he was late for a camp session after a night of partying.
Manziel denied the partying part Wednesday, saying he simply overslept because his cell phone died. He also described his early departure as a mutual decision.
Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin was asked if he has had discussions with Manziel about the way he represents the program off the field. Sumlin said there have been conversations, but likened it to “having kids” and stressed Manziel is not perfect.
“Off the field, there’s no question that he’s made some mistakes,” Sumlin said.
“I think he has done some things that he’s not very proud of, has made some poor decisions. He’s made some good decisions. Unfortunately the poor decisions are the ones that are really publicized. It’s a growing process. It’s a learning process.”
Manziel didn’t show any frustration throughout the line of questioning Wednesday morning. He understands the intense scrutiny comes because of his position, winning college football’s biggest prize in his first season on the field.
“It’s one of those things you don’t understand until you go through it and until you deal with it,” said Manziel, who confirmed Tebow called him to talk although the two have not been able to connect as of Wednesday morning. “My situation is different because nobody has had three years of eligibility left. Nobody. …
“I knew the spotlight was bright. I knew all my actions were being watched. And then lately, it’s just been magnified. I’m OK with that. It just is what it is.”
Manziel also stressed none of his offseason learning experiences will impact his performance this fall, though. The quarterback is key to Texas A&M’s championship hopes after leading the Aggies to a surprising 11-2 run in their first year in the SEC.
Teammates haven’t lost confidence in their offensive leader, either.
“I don’t think that really plays into that stuff, that other scrutiny that he might be getting right now,” Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews. “All I know is that he’s a competitor. He’s a great player. And I’m glad to be blocking for him.”
It has been a long offseason full of attention for Manziel, but the Aggies star guaranteed he will be “150 percent ready to go” when practice begins.
“Football is football,” Manziel said. “My teammates know where my heart’s at and where my head’s at. My coaches do. My family does. That’s what really matters to me. All that is going to factor into how football season is going to go and how everything is going to go in my regard to that. I’m just ready to stop.
“No more talk after this. No more of that. Let’s play football.”