The Washington Times-Herald

August 1, 2013

Manziel far from finished product

By Dennis Glade
Washington Times Herald

WASHINGTON — Johnny Manziel is just a kid. This has been the most inescapable fact during the college football offseason, which has seen Manziel go from a normal college student, who plays football, to a national celebrity in a very short time. He plays golf at Pebble Beach, visits Drake on tour and sits court side at NBA games.

In short, Manziel lives the life every college student could dream of — unfortunately there is a dark flip side to his charmed life. At every turn his detractors scream louder and louder about all of his flaws. A 20-year-old student athlete with flaws? Imagine that.

Manziel lives in the biggest of fishbowls, and there isn't any way any person of any age could understand the meteoric rise from a kid, who was arrested last summer with two fake ids, to the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. The reality is that at just 20- years old, he's the biggest name in sports. Every single tweet he sends out is put under a microscope on Sportscenter. He needs a police escort home after football games. He reached the individual pinnacle in a sport and conference that yearns for a player like Johnny Football.

His celebrity has engulfed his life in nearly every facet. His life trajectory was drastically changed during the 2012 college football season. The life he might have lived is gone and what remains is half dream and half nightmare. I shutter to think what will happen if Manziel leads his Aggie teammates to a 10-2 regular season record and another Cotton Bowl victory. Even an undefeated season and a National Championship might not be enough to satisfy his critics.

Manziel changed the game and the expectations have never been higher for any college athlete. Not even Tim Tebow dealt with this kind of scrutiny. Tebow's mix of devout Christianity, man-child physique and public virginity made him the poster child of how a collegiate athlete is supposed to act. Manziel parties, dates models and wins games against college football's Bill Belichick — Nick Saban. We really don't know much if anything about the real Johnny Manziel, we simply know the exploits and flaws of Johnny Football.

To understand the impact that celebrity has on the youth of this country we can look at Justin Bieber, Amanda Bynes and Britney Spears. Manziel is navigating through a minefield, while trying to figure out what kind of man he wants to be when he grows up. It might seem easy, but as we all know growing up isn't easy — I imagine it's even harder under the white hot microscope of ESPN and TMZ. Plenty of people in the media have said the criticism around Manziel isn't fair, because he's just a 20-year-old kid, but in an outstanding piece by ESPN's Wright Thompson, both of Manziel's parents expressed worry over their son's drinking. If they're worried about the partying, it's safe to say everyone else can be too.

While Manziel might be misunderstood, he hasn't done himself any favors. The Manning camp debacle, which saw Manziel leave the Manning Passing Academy due to dehydration last month, only sped up the narrative that he is an out of control 20-year-old with excessive party habits.

Whether or not Manziel was hungover, or he just simply overslept because his cell phone died is something only he knows, but he certainly wouldn't be the first or last college sophomore to sleep in after a night of heavy drinking. This, of course, was magnified and over-analyzed due to the fact that it was a camp run by the Mannings, the first family of quarterbacks. No matter which story you believe, this much can be said: Manziel badly mismanaged a great career networking opportunity.

Combine the Manning camp with Manziel bizarre barrage of tweets directed at any and all his critics, and Manziel can be viewed in a pretty negative light. Anyone who has used Twitter knows it is a haven for loudmouth morons who love nothing more than to enrage an athlete like Manziel. It's not worth his time and he needs to be smarter than to let these people get under his skin.

Johnny Manziel has a great future ahead of him if he can open his eyes and take a deep breath. He's only 20- years old and just trying to figure everything out for himself. We all can remember what it was like to be a 20-year-old college sophomore, and the dumb decisions we made.

Manziel is far from a finished product — he's just a kid