Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is college football's biggest draw right now, and his offseason activities have done little to curb an active media circus.
Manziel, whose early exit from the Manning Passing Academy has become a national story, joined ESPN's Joe Tessitore for an exclusive interview prior to Wednesday's SEC Media Days Q&A to answer a litany of questions surrounding his recent actions.
The big question was simple: Why did Manziel really leave the Manning camp early? As this tweet from ESPN's SportsCenter suggests, Manziel was emphatic in telling Tessitore that underage drinking (and its aftereffects) did not factor into that decision:
"Absolutely not." - Johnny Manziel, on if he was hungover when he missed Manning Camp. Live on SC NOW.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 17, 2013
Manziel told Tessitore that his phone died and he overslept on the day in question, causing a mutual agreement that he would not continue as a counselor for Eli, Peyton and Archie Manning's annual gathering of top signal-callers.
As noted by ESPN's Brett McMurphy, though, Manziel dodged a straight answer to the biggest Tessitore question:
Manziel wouldn't answer Tessitore question if he was drinking at camp but just said "there was no going out night before"— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) July 17, 2013
CBS Sports' Will Brinson's tweet about another of Johnny Football's answers, which seemed to imply that he was out indulging himself while at the camp:
"I'm 20 years old. I'm still a sophomore in college. Still gonna do things that everybody in college does." - Manziel— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) July 17, 2013
Whatever the case may be, Manziel is not backing down from the media circus that is following his every move. These two McMurphy tweets confirm that notion:
Manziel on offseason: "blown out of proportion. I shouldn't have been in positions I was in. I made some mistakes"— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) July 17, 2013
Manziel on following up Heisman season: "There's no pressure at all. I'm not worried about what this person says or that person says"— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) July 17, 2013
As ESPN's Joe Schad pointed out, the reigning Heisman winner is planning on atoning for his mistakes and returning to Manning camp next year:
Johnny Manziel: I plan to return to Manning camp next year.— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) July 17, 2013
At the same time, the "haters gonna hate" attitude appears to be prevalent in Manziel's psyche right now. Texas A&M football's Twitter account posted the quarterback's answer to increased backlash he's felt since his incredible 2012 season:
Manziel on people wishing for him to fail: "You've got to be doing something right for people to hate you like that."— Texas A&M Football (@AggieFootball) July 17, 2013
Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin was one of the first men to take the podium at SEC Media Days on Wednesday. According to this tweet from McMurphy, the school has had discussions with Johnny Football on his behavior:
Sumlin on Manziel: "We've had some discussions about (the mistakes). It's like having kids. Our discipline policy is in house."— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) July 17, 2013
Manziel appears to be saying the right things about the one thing that really matters in all this: his performance on the field. Texas A&M and Manziel fans alike will likely cling to that idea as the Aggies prepare for a season in the spotlight.
At the end of the day, the young signal-caller should be judged on what he does on the football field. Unfortunately, being the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy in a season where his team beat the eventual national champion has made everything the 20-year-old does a national topic of discussion.
Fair or not, that's just the way it is.
While old-school football fans will likely respond to Manziel's ESPN interview with skepticism, there are surely those who appreciate him agreeing to show up and answer all of the difficult questions.
As the 2013 season approaches, it's unclear whether college football fans are more enamored with Manziel's prowess on the gridiron or his controversies off the field. Either way, this saga is unlikely to come to an end despite the quarterback giving his own account of his early departure from Manning camp.