COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- College football fans across the country are learning more about Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel as a football player.
The redshirt freshman has been all over highlight reels and the topic of discussion across the country as the No. 9 Aggies (10-2) have continued to win, success that is driven in large part by the dynamic quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate nicknamed "Johnny Football."
While fans are well acquainted with Manziel the quarterback, few outside his family or the Bright Football Complex know the 19-year-old's personality away from football field, in part because of coach Kevin Sumlin's policy that prohibits first-year players from speaking to the media. But in the past two days, reporters have had their chance to speak with the 6-foot-1 quarterback from Kerrville (Texas) Tivy High School. On Tuesday, in his first in-person question-and-answer session with media, at Texas A&M's Hagner auditorium, Manziel shed some light onto who he is and how he got to this point.
He even showed gratitude to the nearly full auditorium when the questions began.
"First and foremost, I just want to thank all of y'all," he said. "Some of y'all came a long way. First time to get a chance to stand up in front of a camera and talk to y'all. It's finally nice to be able speak to y'all a little bit about who I am."
Manziel showed a mixture of confidence, humility and even humor in his 30-minute session. When asked to describe himself, he alluded to a line he spoke during a teleconference on Monday, saying that he doesn't look at himself as "Johnny Football," but Johnny Manziel, a kid from Kerrville who's "trying to be a laid-back guy who likes to hang out with my friends and be a normal college student just like anybody else."
He discussed the way his life has changed since he has become one of college football's brightest stars and how he has dealt with the attention. At times, he said, it has been overwhelming.
"There was a few times, probably after the Alabama game, when things really kicked up," said Manziel, who turns 20 on Dec. 6. "There were points in time where I thought about changing my phone number. You definitely have to change how you look at things, where you go. You kind of want to become a homebody a little more. It definitely did get a little overwhelming for me and I think for my family as well, but it's something that you dream about being in the stage and you dream about being able to play quarterback anywhere and be in the spotlight, so it's a dream come true."
He also, for the first time, addressed his offseason arrest. In June he was charged with a trio of misdemeanors -- disorderly conduct, failure to identity and possessing a false identification card -- after being involved in a fight in the Northgate bar district.
"It was something that was a critical mistake in my life and something that I had to learn a lot from," he said. "It's something that had its consequences with Coach Sumlin, with my teammates and with everybody here in Aggieland. It was just a critical mistake on my part, and from that I've had to try to make changes in my life that revolve around that."
When it comes to the constant positive comments, Manziel joked that his friends keep him grounded, talking about other college football quarterbacks they like better. He said his athleticism comes from his parents, Paul and Michelle, and his competitiveness shined through when talking about his father.
"My dad still to this day thinks he can beat me in baseball, football, golf, pingpong, you name it, he thinks he can beat me at it," Manziel said with a smile. "He's a scratch golfer and I still can't beat him in that, but I think I can take him in everything else. I think I get a little bit of it from both of my parents. I'm very blessed and fortunate that I have the ability to play the sports that I have the opportunity to play."
As for the Heisman talk, Manziel seems to find himself humbled by it and feels fortunate to even be considered.
"It's crazy," he said. "It's so surreal for me to be mentioned in the same sentence or the same category as the Heisman Trophy. It's a dream come true. It'd be a dream come true for me to even go to New York and sit down after watching years and years of guys that I've looked up to get dressed up, sit on the front row and hope their name's called. It would be a dream come true and something I would cherish forever."