Aggies meet press after frenzied offseason

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Just before heading to join the team in advance of Texas A&M's first practice of training camp Monday, an Aggies athletics official stopped briefly in front of a television that was tuned to the beginning of ESPN's "Pardon the Interruption."

The reason? To see if the news surrounding Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel was the top story, or if it was beat out in the rundown by the news of MLB's suspension of New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez.

When the rundown appeared and Manziel was found behind Rodriguez and the news of other MLB suspensions, the official remarked "Johnny's three," in an optimistic tone of voice.

The Aggies will take small victories where they can get them right about now.

Texas A&M began fall football practice on Monday evening in the wake of news that its Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, Manziel, is being investigated by the NCAA for allegedly profiting from signing autographs for a broker during the week of the BCS championship game in Miami this past January.

While Manziel is still practicing and taking his repetitions with the team, there is a cloud of uncertainty that exists over the program because of the uncertain status of its star player.

Media from across the country descended on the Bright Football Complex on Monday as A&M coach Kevin Sumlin took the microphone, making the first public comments since the news of the investigation broke on Sunday.

A year ago -- almost to the day -- Sumlin estimated there to be about 15-20 media members in the room 229 of the Nye Academic Complex, a relatively small room in the academic wing of the Bright Complex.

When Sumlin faced the media Monday, the gathering was roughly three times that size and the news conference was moved to the much larger Hagner Auditorium. More than 15 television cameras were pointing straight at the Aggies' head coach and more than three dozen media members sat below those cameras, hanging on each word spoken by Sumlin.

The 49-year-old coach presented himself with poise and appeared to have a grasp on the situation, or at least as much as he possibly could after claiming that he learned of the allegations less than 24 hours prior.

"It's not what happens to you, it's how you deal with it," Sumlin said. "Your ability to deal with those types of situations define what kind of team you are and what kind of person you are."

Not surprisingly, Manziel is the talk of the town in College Station. Even those in the student body have opinions on Johnny Football's eventful offseason.

While several students said they hope Manziel is eligible to play this fall, some are concerned about the attention Texas A&M has received thanks to Manziel.

"It seems like he doesn't make the best choices," said Leah Bailey, a sophomore biology major at A&M. "My main concern is how [his actions] reflect on the A&M campus. We're all a family."

Grayson Blair, an 18-year-old freshman who is majoring in industrial engineering, said he understands why Manziel has enjoyed himself this offseason but feels he could have dealt with his fame better.

"If I had won the Heisman Trophy, I would be doing the same thing as him and partying just as much," Blair said. "I would keep it on a much more low key, though. He obviously doesn't know how to."

Blair said he felt Manziel's actions have reflected poorly on A&M.

"It definitely has," Blair said.

The Aggies will press forward, though. The students and fans still want him to be on the field on Saturdays, leading Texas A&M to a banner 2013 season. Sumlin and the team will continue to press on and handle the situation as best as they can. Texas A&M offensive coordinator Clarence McKinney might have said it best when asked about Manziel on Monday.

"Johnny's our quarterback, he has been our quarterback, and until I'm told differently by Coach Sumlin, we're going to proceed as if Johnny's our quarterback," McKinney said.