In the long and storied history of American college football, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel’s meteoric rise to fame has been unprecedented. “Johnny Football” took the college football universe by storm in 2012, becoming the first freshman ever to win the prestigious Heisman Trophy. As the most valuable player in the land, Johnny Football captured the imagination of fans everywhere, amassing over 5,000 all-purpose yards and 47 total touchdowns for the Aggies.
While the sport of football seems relatively easy for the 20-year old Manziel, managing his life away from the game has proven to be more treacherous. On July 15th 2013, Johnny Football pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge stemming from an arrest in 2012 for failing to properly identify himself to police after a fight in the Northgate section of College Station, Texas.
Then there were controversial tweets from Manziel after his outstanding freshman campaign as he openly complained about being unhappy as a new celebrity on campus. Manziel came off looking like a spoiled brat by not wanting to be in the spotlight and openly questioned if he should leave college early for the NFL. It seemed as though Manziel didn’t fully understand how appreciative he should be with this opportunity to play college football at its highest level.
Yet another mis-step for Johnny Football came when he was scheduled to be an instructor at the 2013 Manning Passing Academy in Thibodaux Louisiana. Manziel arrived late for a Friday coaching session, and didn’t show up at all for the Saturday coaching session and was subsequently sent home. While Manziel claimed to have been ill as the reason for his shoddy efforts, he never notified any of the councilors in advance, and he was spotted in a local bar early Friday morning. As a result, the rumors of Johnny Football turning into Johnny Hangover have begun to tarnish his already fragile reputation.
It is clear that Johnny Football still has some growing up to do. While his wild party-boy image is something that NFL teams frown upon, there have been plenty of quarterbacks in NFL history who have had success tip-toeing this fine line between work and play. Joe Namath, Brett Favre, Ben Roethlisberger were all Super Bowl champion players who were known for their extravagant nightlife personas. However, there have also been a number of NFL flameouts once this gun-slinger lifestyle takes priority over the football lifestyle. NFL wash-ups like Todd Marinovich, Ryan Leaf, and JaMarcus Russell are all cautionary tales of what can happen to a talented player who does not see football as a top priority. Even when a player is willing and able to treat football as a sacred gift from above, it does not always ensure success on the field (see Tim Tebow).
To this point, Johnny Football hasn’t done anything terrible. Rather, he has just acted like any other goofy college student that is still trying to find himself. The only difference between Manziel and any other college-aged knucklehead is that Manziel’s each and every move will be scrutinized to death since he has an incredible ability to score touchdowns and win football games. Most other foolish college students have the luxury of making similar mistakes without a white-hot spotlight shining directly in their faces.
As Johnny Football embarks on his redshirt-sophomore season in College Station, it looks as though he is at a crossroads in his career. If Manziel puts these minor issues behind him, he will most likely have a stellar 2013 season, and become a first-round pick in the NFL Draft. However, if these activities are a harbinger of things to come and Manziel’s mistakes become more elaborate and more costly, the NFL will chew him up and spit him out in a heartbeat.