Johnny Manziel gets it.
Despite the photo ops, the newfound celebrity status and all those public sightings well away from College Station, Texas, Johnny Football understands there’s a place for fame and a place for football.
In a recent interview with ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit, Manziel spoke as if he understood exactly what’s in store for him when it comes to maneuvering around the hype. He’ll be all over preseason magazines, he’ll be followed and followed some more, and his name will be plastered all over any and everything associated with college football.
“I’ve always had the football and school and stuff like that, but it’s that outside stuff now that really makes my life, not really a clutter, but more busy and always doing stuff,” Manziel told Herbstreit.
Texas A&M’s quarterback saw his life completely change in early December when he was announced as the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner. He was already one of the most exciting players to watch in college football, and he became a living legend as the first freshman to take home the coveted bronze statue.
If he hadn’t won it, Manziel would still be idolized, but he wouldn’t be worshiped and he wouldn’t be lumped in with Alabama as the center of attention in college football.
He wouldn’t be an iPhone camera’s fantasy and wouldn’t be scrutinized as much for being courtside at an NBA game. His trick-shot video would be just another Internet link and his face wouldn’t be everywhere we looked.
Such is life for the sport’s most famous player. In the gossip-filled world that we unfortunately live in, Manziel will be hunted and his character will be tested, and he’ll have to prove every day that he can put his team in front of his famous visage.
Manziel described his life as “pure chaos” since winning the Heisman. Wherever he’s gone, a camera -- or 20 -- has followed. He gets bombarded with autograph and photo requests. He’s fighting to keep his Johnny Football name to himself. And he’s had to battle all those wonderful haters, who wish every day that they could step inside his shoes for just a moment.
That isn’t going to stop, so Manziel has to combat it while managing a top-five football team.
Manziel’s plate might be blanketed with off-field distractions, but as spring practice gets under way for the Aggies, it’s time for him to set his celebrity image aside, and he knows that. He understands that the off-field fun and games are over -- for now -- and that it’s time to concentrate on the X's and O's.
He has to understand that the football portion of his life is beginning again, and if this team, which lost some valuable moving parts from the 2012 season, is going to make a run at an SEC title or more, he has to be the field general he was last year.
Johnny Football must trample Johnny Paparazzi.
And it sounds like Manziel is ready to do that. He seemed very honest and genuine during his interview and even went as far to say that he doesn’t understand all the hoopla surrounding him. He still believes he’s the same Johnny who redshirted 2011 and he downplays his popularity.
Clearly things are much different, but it has to be refreshing for his head coach to hear his humility. The last thing Kevin Sumlin needs is a diva running things under center.
Manziel finished the interview talking about the NFL, which is an awkward conversation for anyone in his position. He needs only one more year at A&M before he can make the jump to the NFL, and he didn’t tiptoe around the fact that he’s considered making the leap after the 2013 season.
He knows it could be just another distraction to weigh him down, but Manziel isn't shy about the NFL. Manziel spoke honestly, and that honesty will keep it from being a real distraction.
“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,” he said. “But like I said, I’m very happy here and very happy with Coach Sumlin and college football. I love it.”
And to continue his magical run, he’ll have to have even more love for it in 2013.