COMMENTARY: Johnny Manziel’s stage needs different spotlight

Orlando SentinelAugust 4, 2013 

SEC Preview Football

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel

ROGELIO V. SOLIS — AP

ORLANDO, Fla.

IT’S APPARENT THAT Johnny Manziel is his own worst enemy.

The Texas A&M quarterback has spent more time in the spotlight than out of it. It’s almost as if Manziel wants to find ways to stand out — publicly decrying the attention, but secretly coveting it.

How else can you explain showing up to a fraternity party at the University of Texas wearing a bright pink golf shirt or throwing on a Tim Tebow New York Jets jersey?

Those are not the actions of someone trying to stay out of the spotlight.

Especially when you’re Johnny Football.

In the end, it catches up with you.

It’s the reason that Manziel’s parents are worried about how he is handling the pressure. His father, Paul, told Wright Thompson of ESPN the Magazine that he believes Manziel drinks to deal with the stress. Paul Manziel is concerned that the end product could turn out to be bad for his son.

“Yeah, it could come unraveled,” Paul Manziel said. “And when it does, it’s gonna be bad. Real bad.”

The first hint things were getting out of control was when Johnny Football off the field started interfering with Johnny Football on the field during the Manning Passing Academy last month. Many thought it would be the wake-up call Manziel needed when he left the camp early amid reports he had been dismissed by Archie Manning for “partying.” ESPN.com reported Manziel was upset about the negative attention his recent actions had triggered when he met with Texas A&M coaches. During SEC Media Days, he vowed to make better decisions on and off the field.

But two weeks later, there he was on YouTube, getting kicked out of a fraternity party in Austin.

Manziel’s transgressions are relatively tame. He hasn’t been arrested this offseason, which is noteworthy considering the number of college athletes who run afoul of the law.

Yet there’s still concern that all of Manziel’s newfound fame has come with a heavy price.

“I don’t know where the anger comes from,” Paul Manziel said. “I don’t think he knows. If it comes from his drinking, or if he’s mad at himself for not being a better person when he fails, when he fails God and his mom and me. If it makes him angry that he’s got demons in him. You can only speculate, because you can’t go in there.”

Manziel’s coach, Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin, admitted school leaders have made mistakes handling Manziel’s surge in popularity.

“There’s no question that he’s made some mistakes,” Sumlin said during the SEC’s annual football media event. “By no means are we perfect with how we do things.”

Paul Manziel agrees telling Thompson that it’s his place — not the school’s — to provide his son with proper guidance because, “The school sure the hell isn’t gonna do it.”

Johnny Manziel admitted at SEC Media Days that he’s tiring of the attention.

“The spotlight is 10 times brighter and 10 times hotter than I thought it was two months ago,” he said. “I guess I feel like Justin Bieber or something. I never thought it would really be that way.”

However, he was quick to point out a few minutes later that he’s a 20-year-old and is trying to enjoy life.

Yes, he’s young, but that’s no excuse.

Perhaps his parents could be doing more. Or perhaps the school and his coach could step in and limit how much he adds to his headaches. Either way, nothing can be accomplished unless Manziel himself that he has a problem.

Only then can the weight of the world be lifted from his shoulders and the focus shift back to the football field.

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