Wednesday at The Wynfrey Hotel was Johnny Football Day in a big way. The Texas A&M redshirt sophomore and reigning Heisman winner kicked off the morning with a live SportsCenter interview with ESPN's Joe Tessitore and then ran the media gauntlet following his head coach, Kevin Sumlin.
A kid who everyone was ready to tear down stepped up to the plate in Hoover, Ala., and, just by being himself, proved he's capable of handling the spotlight. As CBS Sports' Mike Freeman put it:
Gotta say: Manziel came off pretty damn good.— mike freeman (@realfreemancbs) July 17, 2013
While there will be naysayers, that Johnny Manziel showed up, addressed the issues and passed his first appearance at SEC Media Days with flying colors is a good sign for him and the Aggies.
Whether or not you buy the "overslept" explanation that Manziel gave on SportsCenter is of little consequence. Manziel was never going to be able to give the media and the public what they wanted, but he gave them something.
He was never going to stand up and say he got too drunk, even if that were the truth. That just is not an answer that any 20-year-old, Manziel included, should give. However, he did say, as Mike Humes of ESPN tweeted, that the night before had nothing to do with the missed meeting, and that oversleeping was his fault.
Manziel: I missed a meeting, wasn't anything to do with the night prior... it was simply phone died, overslept— Mike Humes (@MikeHumesESPN) July 17, 2013
Manziel followed that up during his media time on the SEC Digital Network by reiterating that it was 120 percent his fault that he ended up leaving the Manning Passing Academy. He also mentioned that he'll be back there next season. Despite the public outcry, the Mannings want to see him back in Thibodaux, La.
Johnny Football did not have to come to SEC Media Days. Texas A&M could have shielded itself from the questions by leaving him at home and not exposing him to what truly was a media circus.
Instead, the 20-year-old showed up, answered the questions the media asked and did so in the charismatic way that made him something of a media darling prior to folks being hell-bent on stopping his collegiate fun parade.
Johnny Manziel: "I feel like I am a little higher pedestal, I'm still 20 years old, still going to do things people my age do"— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) July 17, 2013
As ESPN's Brett McMurphy tweeted, Manziel just wants to enjoy himself, despite the pedestal that the media and public have forced upon him. In listening to Johnny Football, it is pretty clear he doesn't want your standards. He just wants to play football and enjoy the life that he was leading prior to the public's arbitrary standards being inflicted on him.
Manziel is going to be the best Johnny Football he can be. That's good enough for him. That's good enough for his coach. That's good enough for his teammates, per Jimmy Burch of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
A&M OT Jake Matthews, on trusting/believing in Manziel: "He wants to be the best. I know he wouldn't do anything to mess that up."— Jimmy Burch (@Jimmy_Burch) July 17, 2013
He clearly understands the gravity of the situation, yet he is a lot less inclined to give up the life he enjoys in favor of the life people want him to lead. That reluctance to concede will come with criticism and a lot of stress, something A&M is helping him handle. But in the end, he'll still get to live life his way.
The kid is growing up. He showed that at SEC Media Days.