As arguably the best player in college football and the defending Heisman Trophy winner, college football fans and pundits should be talking about Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel's prospects for the upcoming season. His off-field ventures are the main topic of discussion, though, which means Manziel must turn in another Heisman-worthy campaign to silence his critics.
Would winning another Heisman Trophy render Manziel's character concerns moot?
Manziel had one of the most incredible seasons in college football history last year, becoming the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. He certainly earned it by virtue of his 3,706 passing yards, 1,410 rushing yards and 47 total touchdowns.
Last season was the Aggies' first in the difficult SEC, and while few expected them to contend, Manziel spurred them to an 11-2 record as well as a Cotton Bowl win over Oklahoma. If that wasn't enough, Manziel orchestrated the only win over Alabama last year as the Crimson Tide went on to beat Notre Dame in the National Championship Game.
This entire offseason should have been spent celebrating Manziel's future prospects, but he is very much under the microscope, so some of his immature decisions have come back to bite him. Not surprisingly, that was the main focus of his appearance at SEC Media Day on Wednesday.
Manziel was part of the Manning Passing Academy last week as a college coach and counselor, but he left early after missing some meetings and practices, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen. While rumors ran rampant regarding the reason behind Manziel's departure, Manziel reportedly told camp officials that he had been feeling ill, and a mutual agreement was reached for Manziel to leave early.
Even though camp officials disputed that Manziel's lateness to the meetings had anything to do with him potentially partying the night before, it naturally came up at the SEC Media Day.
Manziel was asked if he drank the night before the day in question, and he gave an evasive answer while never actually denying it, according to Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead.
ESPN: "Did you drink alcohol while you were there?" Manziel: "I'm not going into details, we had social events." http://t.co/kTGmAPcbfK— Jason McIntyre (@jasonrmcintyre) July 17, 2013
When asked by ESPN's Joe Tessitore directly about whether a hangover was the reason behind missing meetings and practices, though, Manziel claimed that his phone died, which caused him to oversleep, according to ESPN's Darren Rovell.
Johnny Manziel tells Joe Tessitore that he missed a meeting at Manning Academy because his phone died & overslept.— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) July 17, 2013
It can certainly be argued whether or not Manziel was telling the truth, but there were other instances this offseason that got him into trouble as well. According to Sam Khan, Jr. of GigEmNation, Manziel tweeted in June that he "can't wait to leave College Station." Manziel later deleted the tweet and then professed his love for Texas A&M, but the damage was already done.
Everything that Manziel does and says is magnified, and that is something he has to realize. All he can do at this point is carry himself with class off the field and perform effectively on it. Manziel seemed to understand that on Wednesday as he professed his desire to just play football, according to SportsCenter.
"I'm ready to stop. No more talk after this. Let's play football." - Johnny Manziel... Only 42 days left until the season starts.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 17, 2013
If Manziel plays like he did last year and manages to win the Heisman Trophy once again, it's likely that most of his detractors will be silenced. It's certainly important for him to mature over the course of the season, but on-field performance can cure many ills.
Perhaps some NFL teams have questions about him due to his attitude. If Manziel becomes the second player in college football history to win two Heisman Trophies along with Ohio State running back Archie Griffin, those teams won't be able to deny his talent.
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