No Johnny Hangover
Heisman Winner Deals With Latest Controversy
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel talks with reporters during the Southeastern Conference football Media Days in Hoover, Ala., Wednesday, July 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
FILE - In this Nov. 10, 2012 file photo, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) runs through the tackle of Alabama defensive back Deion Belue (13) during the first half of an NCAA college football game at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Manziel has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge stemming from his arrest last year for fighting outside a bar near campus. The Heisman Trophy winner made a brief appearance in court Monday, July 15, 2013 in College Station, Texas, and admitted he failed to identify himself to police following the altercation in June 2012. (AP Photo/Dave Martin, File)
Hoover, Ala. — By 8:30 a.m., Johnny Manziel had come clean.
The case of mysterious behavior at the Manning Passing Academy was explained. Manziel, the 20-year-old Texas A&M quarterback, said he missed his alarm and overslept. A dead cellphone, not dead brain cells, was his explanation for leaving the camp a day early last week.
So, no it wasn’t The Hangover IV starring Manziel, and he left Louisiana on good terms with an invitation to return next year. But Manziel said he also felt regret for not completing the task.
“I was upset at myself,” Manziel said. “For me not to fulfill my obligation, there’s no excuse for it. It’s my fault.”
Johnny Football first shared the details from an ESPN studio seat with scores of reporters listening in the background. The spotlight was Tebow-like in scale. Even by SEC media day circus standards, the attention bordered on insane.
A few minutes later, Manziel entered a group interview room and hundreds jockeyed for position and heard these bites:
■ “The spotlight is 10 times brighter than I thought it was.”
■ “My offseason will not affect my season.”
■ “At the end of the day, I’m not going for the Miss America pageant, I’m playing football.”
■ “I just don’t have anything to say on Twitter.”
About that last thought: Manziel, who had collected some 385,000 Twitter followers, hasn’t hit the “send” button since June 15. He’d been an active participant — too active, some suggest. At one point, he posted that he “can’t wait to leave to leave college station ... whenever it may be.”
Coach Kevin Sumlin had seen enough. He said Tuesday that he and his quarterback had a meeting soon after.
“We had some discussion when that last tweet was out,” Sumlin said. “He hasn’t done that recently.”
As for Manziel’s Heisman Trophy-winning encore season, Sumlin wants to see Manziel continue to think more like a quarterback. As the Aggies rolled to 11 victories last season, including an astonishing triumph at Alabama, Manziel worked largely on instinct behind a superb offensive line.
“We still want to get a much better feel for the overall package, and think more like a coach on the field,” Sumlin said.
Less athlete acting like a quarterback and more quarterbacking with athletic skills, Sumlin said.
It’s difficult to fathom the Aggies being much better in their second SEC season. Manziel’s magic helped lift Texas A&M to an 11-2 record, the proud program’s best mark in two decades, better than any Big 12 regular season.
Nobody saw this coming. The quarterback spot was a jump ball this time a year ago, and with the Aggies breaking in a new coaching staff, they looked to be in a more difficult spot than fellow Big 12 convert Missouri, which was returning its quarterback and arrived with the momentum of more recent success.
Not to mention, the Tigers had defeated A&M for two straight years in College Station, Texas.
But the Aggies proved to be exceptional where Missouri was troubled — at quarterback and the offensive line.
It’s funny: An A&M program that probably was more SEC-like while it was in the Big 12, with an emphasis on power running backs, won in the SEC by being more of a Big 12 offense. The Aggies led the conference in scoring and total offense. That never happened in the Big 12.
Aggies defensive back Toney Hurd Jr., without surrendering team secrets, spoke of the program’s altered approach to weight training and nutrition. “There were a lot of things we did differently,” Hurd said. “We trained different, we ate different.”
Vague, sure, but how can you argue with the results, especially after the Aggies went into the belly of the beast, Alabama, at Bryant-Denny Stadium, and won the game in non-fluke fashion.
The Aggies’ biggest fix may have happened Wednesday when Manziel thrust himself in the court of public opinion, and emerged with a final thought that should satisfy A&M fans.
“It’s time to play football,” Manziel said. “I’ll be ready.”