Plenty has been said regarding Johnny Manziel and his offseason. What hasn’t been said (as far as I know) is that Manziel is a great example of how difficult it is and will be for college football superstars to sustain a multi-year experience in the limelight in today’s era of college football.
Recent superstars like Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton had the benefit of having a single season in the limelight followed by an immediate jump to the NFL Draft. No long offseason to navigate in between collegiate campaigns. Tim Tebow navigated his multiple years well, but the world of college football is actually much different today even since just 2006-2009.
The world of Twitter is truly a gamechanger for the collegiate athlete, and it’s not just the immediate reaction from the media and fans. Never before have athletes been a few words away from communicating directly with hundreds of thousands of people at any time of the day from anywhere. While many athletes handle the temptation well 99% of the time, it just takes a single tweet to ignite a firestorm. Unlimited access to a superstar can only hurt the superstar.
College football has a very long offseason. An offseason for Johnny Manziel while preparing for another college football season is a marathon. The superstar college athlete remains in his small college town waiting more than half a year for the next season to get into full swing. He has an enormity of down time, and the public has an equal amount of time to overreact to insignificant details.
The college offseason for someone like Manziel is very different from the player working to make a leap to the NFL. The player making the jump to the NFL is working his tail off to improve draft position, impress NFL teams; there’s little time for nonsense. Upon getting drafted from a team, the athlete immediately goes to work to prove himself with his new team – something that is anything but automatic in the NFL.
Even the NFL veteran superstar who has already successfully proven himself has a much different situation in the offseason than what Johnny Manziel just experienced. The NFL superstar has resources to “get away.” He has years of experience to develop maturity and stay busy. He often has a family life. While there are always NFL knuckleheads that make headlines, the vast majority of the NFL stars stay out of the media during the offseason.
Instead, a young Johnny Manziel has little experience to draw upon in navigating the limelight. He’s the biggest thing in college football and the most watched man on campus in College Station. Has he successfully navigated this offseason? Of course not, but I think there’s room to give him some grace considering the situation. Telling the public that they have no idea what it’s like to walk a day in his shoes is a PR nightmare for Manziel, but honestly, he’s right. None of us have an idea what it is like to walk a day in his shoes.
Manziel may very well have been dismissed from the Manning camp for missing meetings as a result of getting drunk. Frankly, I don’t know many people who didn’t do the same thing on a semi-regular basis while in college. Let’s take a moment to keep such actions in perspective especially in light of events like Aaron Hernandez being charged with murder and even Jeremy Hill sucker punching another kid and celebrating it.
Manziel may have a gigantic ego. He might be extremely immature, He may blow his career as a result of not having a laser focus on improving his football game. These are all issues that Manziel himself must address and work on as he pursues a career in football. However, absent a major incident where Manziel breaks the law or does something that truly warrants disciplinary actions, let’s allow this young kid to get through the next six weeks and into another football season.
If he can get to August 31th, he’ll have navigating an eight month stretch that might be one of the toughest of his life. Most expect Manziel to make a jump to the NFL after the 2013 campaign, so a similar offseason is unlikely.
I’m not advocating the media gives Manziel a free pass, but let’s at least attempt to acknowledge the shoes he’s walking in. Hopefully, he won’t have to remind us to do so again.