Published: Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 15:01
To speak of Johnny Manziel is, in the eyes of many college football aficionados, to speak of the rebirth of the Texas A&M program.
Manziel may be an electrifying quarterback, but some decisions made by the young quarterback in the wake of his groundbreaking Heisman win and a stirring team victory at the Cotton Bowl have left some Aggies concerned about his newfound position as the unofficial face of Texas A&M University on the national stage.
One of those concerned individuals appears to be Texas A&M athletic director Eric Hyman, who met with Manziel and his parents Sunday to discuss the increased responsibility and public scrutiny that comes with a Heisman trophy.
“I told [Manziel and his family] that he’s no longer a freshman and he’s no longer a sophomore, junior or senior. He’s a ‘Heisman,’” Hyman said in an interview with the San Antonio Express-News.
Manziel’s recent troubles began after he tweeted a photograph of himself and others fanning out wads of money at the WinStar casino in Oklahoma the day after the team’s win over the Oklahoma Sooners in the Cotton Bowl. The quarterback deleted the photograph after some scrutiny but also defended it, pointing out that gambling is legal for people 18 and up and telling his critics to “KEEP HATING.”
That controversy was followed by another, this time ignited by online tabloid TMZ, which posted photos of Manziel clenching a lit sparkler between his teeth and posing with a bottle of Dom Perignon champagne at a Dallas night club. Manziel again defended his actions, reminding critics he was with his parents at the time and behaving within the bounds of the law.
Some of Manziel’s supporters argue that his off-field antics are being blown out of proportion.
“Anything he does, the media will see something in it,” said LeAnn Tobola, freshman political science major. “Maybe he should be behaving more professionally, but he’s still in college, still does dumb stuff like students do.”
Before he was a gridiron hero, Manziel was no stranger to trouble. While Coach Sumlin and former offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury were evaluating candidates for the quarterback position in the summer, a run-in with police during a night on Northgate ended with Manziel spending the night in Brazos County Jail and being charged with disorderly conduct, giving false information to a police officer and possession of a fake ID.
The arrest led to speculation from news sources that Manziel might lose the quarterback job due to his off-field indiscretions.
Manziel’s extracurricular activities have not curbed his popularity among some students.
“It’s his business what he does off the field,” said Nathan Gober, freshman electrical engineering major. “He does need to be aware of the position he’s in. There’s a big spotlight on him. Everyone is looking at him.”
University officials responsible for the direction of A&M’s marketing seem unfazed by Manziel’s recent activities.
“If you look at Johnny’s acceptance speech I think you’re seeing the real Johnny Manziel,” said Jason Cook, A&M’s vice president of marketing. “He’s a great ambassador for the University. He and his team have brought unprecedented national exposure to Texas A&M.”
Also controversial is the quarterback’s unofficial position as the face of Texas A&M on a national stage. As the Dallas Morning News reported, after Manziel’s Heisman win Texas A&M’s marketing department went into overdrive, putting the redshirt freshman’s face on more than 400 billboards — the boldest being a digital display of rotating still images in Times Square — and posting congratulatory ads on some of the most visited sports sites on the internet.
“I don’t think it’s right that he should be the face of the school,” said Samuel Wick, freshman industrial distribution major. “Johnny’s great but the 12th Man is what makes sports here special. That’s what people should know about us.”
Cook said while Manziel is an important part of the school’s brand, he is one aspect of a larger effort to bring more attention to the school as a whole.