Dark clouds have gathered around Johnny Manziel's tumultuous offseason, and a sky this foul clears not without a storm. With the bright lights of SEC media days bearing down on Wednesday, that tempest appeared to begin in Hoover, Alabama.
Manziel, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and current Texas A&M starting quarterback, was the main attraction at The Wynfrey Hotel, attracting throngs of media both national and local. And fresh off his latest faux pas—a controversial expulsion from the Manning Passing Academy that may or may not have been because of a hangover—he had plenty of questions to answer.
Here's what he had to say, from start to finish, on a long day of interviews:
Appearing first on SportsCenter with ESPN anchor Joe Tessitore, Manziel was asked about his dismissal from the Manning Academy and the circumstances surrounding it.
Manziel said it was a simple matter of oversleeping and missing a meeting, admitting he bit off more than he could chew this summer and that his phone died in the morning:
When the follow-up question about his alleged hangover came up, Manziel said that his dismissal had nothing to do with the night before—he was absolutely not hungover:
Tessitore asked if he had had any alcohol the night before (Manziel is 20 years old), and the quarterback said he didn't want to get into details:
Manziel later said that he wasn't asked to leave the Manning camp; it was more a mutual decision between himself and the Mannings. He said he has spoken to Eli and Peyton since the incident and that he plans on returning next year:
He concluded his discussion of the Manning Academy by appearing contrite, apologizing to Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin and Texas A&M as a whole:
Manziel then spoke about his high-profile role in a grander sense, saying that he knows he is on a higher pedestal than most college football players but that he wants to be cut some slack since he's also a normal 20-year-old kid:
But he also made it clear, to those worried about the nature of his focus, that he's "had his fun" this summer and is ready for the season to begin:
On just how intense the media focus as been, Manziel said he couldn't ever imagine being in a situation like this and that he was starting to feel like Justin Bieber:
Later, not during his SportsCenter interview, he told reporters that he feels like the LeBron James of college football, but also that he feels "no pressure" given the microscope he's under:
Still, the attention has clearly had some effect on his life. Manziel told the media that he used to watch SportsCenter every day, but now he shies away from it.
He also sought professional help to deal with the added stress in his life:
Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated did a good job of summarizing Manziel's main talking points:
The folks at College Football Talk weighed in on his early performance, saying he handled himself relatively well and did decent damage control:
And NFL.com's Chase Goodbread said he hit a homer with his first interview of the day:
Former South Carolina QB Stephen Garcia, meanwhile, took the opportunity to fire shots at Texas A&M athletic director Eric Hyman. Hyman, formerly of South Carolina, played a large role in getting Garcia suspended and kicked off the Gamecocks when he was there:
After Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin took the podium, ESPN's Paul Finebaum—who's become something of a famous critic to Johnny Manziel—said he was "deeply disturbed" by the coach's interview:
Which seems a little unfair, since Sumlin did say on Wednesday that media days will be a "great experience" for Manziel and that he's had "discussions" with the QB about not tweeting anymore:
And also because Sumlin has a whole team to attend to, not just one player:
Before heading into his main media session, Manziel told CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman that he's modeling his game after Michael Vick and a younger Vince Young:
But then it was time for his main interview, which surprisingly didn't take place at the main podium of the Wynfrey. Instead, he went to a (supposedly) quiet table in the corner of the room. But the media found him and swarmed anyway:
His arrival was compared to waiting for the President of the United States to talk:
After giving some of the same answers about the Manning camp, Manziel said that after how hard he and his teammates worked in 2012, he thought they earned the right to have some fun this offseason:
He also made a few emphatic statements about how his offseason will affect his on-field play:
Later, Manziel talked about some of the other recent SEC QBs who won Heismans, saying that he received a voicemail from Tim Tebow and that he's had a few conversations with Cam Newton:
But he also made a point of distancing himself from the notoriously chaste Tebow, saying that he's different and plans on continuing to live his life his own way:
He made that point explicitly clear by listing his highlights of the offseason: Meeting the rapper Drake at a concert, going to Cabo for Spring Break and speaking with LeBron James:
To which Drake congratulated him on handling himself well in Hoover:
On the local spotlight in College Station, Manziel said he started taking exclusively online classes for a while but will resume taking classes in person this fall.
He also had some interesting Alabama-related comments. Manziel said that his focus is on Rice, the Aggies' Week 1 opponent, not his Week 3 showdown with the Crimson Tide. And later, when talking about particularly tough defenses, he spoke more about LSU and Florida than Alabama:
He went on to let people know that Alabama QB A.J. McCarron was his roommate at the Manning Passing Academy, but he didn't blame him for his inability to wake up:
He left off with a quote about Jadeveon Clowney, the South Carolina defensive end who yesterday said he would love a shot at Manziel. Johnny Football echoed those sentiments, adding that he'd love to see Clowney this year because it would mean his team made the SEC Championship:
Most of the reaction to Johnny's main interview was good, with people applauding his genuine tone about football-related matters and saying he handled himself well:
It's been a long day, Mr. Football—go take a well-deserved rest. Just make sure not to sleep through your alarm this time: You don't want to miss the ESPYs.