Without question, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel has been the story of the college football offseason.
From hanging with celebs, to high-priced seats at sporting events and his infamous twitter feed, the Heisman winner has made plenty of noise during a time most student-athletes go into media hibernation. Few have had a chance to take the most recognizable individual award in sports back to campus with more eligibility remaining. In addition to The Downtown Athletic Club bringing an absurd amount of attention to each winner, the explosion of college football the last decade, combined with a new universe of exposure through social media, has awarded Johnny Football celebrity status.
I can easily admit how much being a college football player has changed in just over ten years since I was on campus, but I can still relate to a large majority of how things operate. Talk to just about any kid on any team, and they would gladly welcome the “bullshit” associated with owning a Heisman Trophy or being considered one of the best players in the country. As Johnny wishes others would walk a day in his shoes, the truth is, most people would cut off a finger in order to, and I’m not just referencing “fans”.
The attention is no doubt next level. Look at Alabama QB AJ McCarron and how much his life is now in the public eye, not to mention any player who has an off-the-ﬁeld issue is highly documented and scrutinized. My perception is that most is brought on by the individual. Be careful what you ask for. In my day, we got away with plenty and had less than half of the outside distractions, but honestly, most athletes covet the outside distractions. It’s the environment and just part of the deal. I didn’t have a teammate ever turn down a beer from a random person at a party, not to mention turning down the attention of a sorority hottie who made it clear why she was interested.
My first question is how schools are handling this. I am sure SIDs at each institution step into team meetings and attempt to tell the guys not to tweet how they embarrassed an opposing player the year before, pics of cash or half naked women. Of course coaches are telling these kids not to tweet that play action that will be key in that week’s game or that a certain defensive end will be dropping into coverage as well. Tutors help kids study. Academic advisors help choose majors and class schedules. Nutritionists help choose a meal plan. Strength coaches help develop power and speed. Position coaches help develop technique. Many schools bring in speakers on leadership, teamwork, attitude, religion, work ethic, motivation and more.
But who is helping kids deal with success and attention? Who honestly could?
Tim Tebow would be one of few consultants who could even relate to what these guys are dealing with, but how much could he even relate to the lifestyle of MOST college football players? Based on the social media pictures, tabloid coverage and Clay Travis’ questioning of college football players currently eligible, I’m not sure Timmy has been in too many of those situations. Uncharted water is where today’s big time college football players wade. It is a new generation of celebrity and attention, like it or not.
To be clear, I have no problem with any of it and don’t blame any player for wanting to interact with fans or live the life that success can bring. Live it up! For most…it won’t last long, which brings me back Johnny Manziel. I love watching the kid play. I enjoy the video of him tossing footballs out of the stands into basketball goals. I think he gives good and honest interviews. I doubt any have an issue with his edgy Halloween pictures.
I do have one wish for Johnny though – maybe two if September 14th is up for discussion. Enjoy this. It will NEVER be better. I realize that school is boring and feels worthless. I know lifting and running are a pain. I get it that other students bother you on the way to class. I can’t fathom the social media harassment you deal with. I am sure practice is exhausting…well maybe not, you are a quarterback, and you guys do as much as punters. (That’s it, you throw, take snaps, handoff, and throw). I get that you are young and don’t get it and don’t realize how good you have it. There’s nothing wrong with that; we have all been there.
Well, not really. I can’t count on one hand the college football players who have lived on your stage. You are the headliner, the main attraction and the draw. Have fun, kid. NFL stands for Not For Long, right? There aren’t guarantees at that level anyway. Money doesn’t seem to be an issue, so chasing a check can’t be the reason moving on seems like bliss.
I saw the interview with Kirk Herbstriet, saw the tweets and see the quotes. Myself, along with thousands of others, can tell you the next life might not be as great as you think. Whatever it is about the next phase of your life that you are looking so forward to, it might not be as great as you think. The fame won’t fade much; you have the hardware for that. My wish is for you to look around and take it in first. Look at the contacts, followers, friends, facilities, fans – all of it. It won’t last and it won’t get better, because NFL or not, the word we all dread but must come to grips with is on the other side: work.
Photo Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports