Sapakoff: Even odds Johnny Manziel makes it to 2014 game in Columbia
HOOVER, Ala. — He’s not really a college football player, is he? Johnny Manziel is a 30-year-old actor playing a Heisman Trophy-winning celebrity who tweets racy photos from all around the country and gets into atypical trending trouble.
Because no actual quarterback wins the Heisman as a freshman, shows up at SEC Media Days to say he “feels like Justin Bieber” and says — as the Manziel character did Wednesday — “Speculation of me being too hungover last week at the Manning Passing Academy was absolutely incorrect.”
Ah, but the new suit was impressively real and, evidently, so is this Manziel reality show.
“I’m still a 20-year-old college kid,” the Texas A&M rock star repeated during his trumpeted visit to Hoover.
No smart-aleck grins.
No formal apologies, either.
But Manziel’s off-field mistakes are enough to make you wonder. How long he will last at Texas A&M?
Odds that Manziel makes it to the season opener: 10-1.
So much has happened to Manziel since SEC Media Days a year ago when head coach Kevin Sumlin barely mentioned his name.
Manziel became Johnny Football, beat Alabama, won the Heisman.
He also showed off casino winnings, shoved a graduate assistant coach, tweeted that he “can’t wait” to leave College Station after getting a parking ticket and on Monday pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge stemming from a 2012 fight near campus that involved “mutual combat.”
The Manning mess
Forced to explain his sudden departure from a camp instructor role at the Manning Passing Academy last week, Manziel said he “simply overslept” and wasn’t sent home by former NFL and Ole Miss quarterback Archie Manning.
“I just had a busy schedule in July,” he explained. “Probably bit off more than I could chew.”
But the Kerrville, Tex., native said he met with counselors at Texas A&M after the Manning flap to discuss “stuff I was struggling with.”
Manziel seems focused on football. He was asked about the rematch with Alabama on Sept. 14.
“I’m preparing for Rice,” Manziel answered. “We have two games before we play Alabama.”
Odds that Manziel makes it through the 2013 season: 5-1.
The Heisman is a very heavy trophy for a marked man, on and off the field.
“It’s one of those things you don’t really understand until you deal with it,” Manziel said.
He is the only freshman ever to win the prestigious award.
“Nobody — not me, not Texas A&M — knew what to prepare for,” Manziel said.
‘I’m not Tebow’
Every SEC team will over-prepare for Manziel, trying to figure out how to stop a 6-1, 200-pound guy that threw for 3,706 yards and rushed for 1,410 yards last season. Meanwhile, Manziel must adjust to new offensive coordinator Clarence McKinney after Kliff Kingsbury beat out Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris for the head coach job at Texas Tech.
Odds that Manziel is still around for the 2014 game at South Carolina: Even.
A lot can happen before the Aggies come to Columbia next season for a game matching the SEC’s newest permanent rivalry partners. Manziel is a redshirt sophomore this year and could opt for the NFL, or fumble his opportunities.
Tim Tebow managed to navigate college and celebrity after winning the 2007 Heisman as a sophomore.
But, as Manziel stressed Wednesday, “I’m not Tebow.”
He has exchanged voice mails with Tebow, the former Florida and current New England Patriots quarterback, as recently as last week.
“Really would like to have the chance (to talk to Tebow),” Manziel said. “Tebow’s a guy I really look up to.”
Sumlin acknowledged that Manziel “has made some mistakes” but put some spin on Manziel becoming a “celebrity quarterback.”
“I don’t know that that’s the worst thing that could happen,” Sumlin said. “It might be the worst thing for some people. It was a good thing for me and Texas A&M.”
It’s a good sign if Manziel is back at SEC Media Days next July.
Bad sign: He’s repeating what he said this July.
“I want to learn from my mistakes,” Manziel said Wednesday. “I don’t want to make the same mistakes twice.”
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff.