Just how big is Johnny Manziel?
When the sophomore Texas A&M quarterback walked into the Wynfrey Hotel for SEC Media Days on Wednesday morning, it kicked off one of the most surreal atmospheres in the history of the event.
Manziel joined ESPN's Joe Tessitore on the set of ESPNU's College Football Live, with a throng of reporters in tow in a scene that resembled an on-campus College GameDay episode rather than a media event.
The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner compared himself to one of American sports' biggest stars—Miami Heat forward LeBron James.
"I won the Heisman as a freshman," he said. "I don't say that to sound cocky or anything, but it's the truth. Without my teammates, that would have never happened. Look at some of the guys who are the most hated around the league. Look at LeBron. He's the best player in the league, and he's probably the MOST hated. Maybe I'm in that role for college football."
When asked about the swarm of media following him through the hotel, Manziel compared himself to pop superstar Justin Bieber, according to ESPNU.
Manziel on what it will feel like to get in front of the podium in front of 1200 media at #SECMediaDays : "I feel like Justin Bieber."— ESPNU (@ESPNU) July 17, 2013
Over the top?
Not at all.
In terms of college football, Manziel is LeBron James. He's the game's biggest star, which—fair or not (and it's not)—makes him a lightning rod for criticism.
This event is meant to serve a football audience, but Manziel's appearance quickly deteriorated into a flurry of off-the-field questions. Subjects included his recent trip to the Manning Passing Academy in Thibodaux, La., where he was sent home after missing a meeting.
It wasn't a result of being out late, Manziel said.
"My phone died, my phone was off," he said. "I woke up late, and it was after a scheduled meeting. It was nothing more than a college student making a mistake. I went in and owned up to it. It's my fault. There's no excuse for my phone not being on."
That means his story has changed quite a bit, since the initial party line was that he left due to "illness."
Whatever the reason, as he made the rounds, Manziel did his best to diffuse the controversy generated by a tumultuous offseason. While the Manning Passing Academy fiasco was a big deal, he feels the rest of his offseason headlines were a bit overblown.
"I feel like at certain points in time, it was blown out of proportion a little bit," he said. "But I made mistakes, and I'm trying not to make the same one twice."
He addressed a tenuous situation, and he was as honest as he can be. After all, he is 20 years old and would be breaking the law if he was out late drinking.
Manziel's appearance went about as expected.
In one short year in the spotlight, he has become quite comfortable in front of the camera. The LeBron quote will draw headlines, but it shouldn't be used as another misstep in Manziel's offseason of tumult.
*Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.