COLLEGE STATION, Texas — There was a Johnny Football sighting this week.
And he was on the Texas A&M campus. No Aggie joke.
The Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback has become a punch line for taking only online classes this semester because the crush of attention from his fellow students was making it impossible to concentrate on his studies.
Apparently, the NCAA doesn’t care how a student-athlete matriculates as long as it falls within the school’s curriculum guidelines, and Johnny Manziel was able to find enough cyber subjects to take a full classload.
However, since the end of his historic freshman season, Manziel has been supplementing his online education with real-world experiences like visiting casinos, tooling around his Mercedes, trademarking “Johnny Football” to prevent unscrupulous T-shirt dealers from profiting from his likeness and hanging around the French Quarter during Super Bowl week.
Manziel has been so busy that Tuesday was his first media availability since the Cotton Bowl. It followed the Aggies’ second day of spring practice. Apparently there’s no such thing as virtual spring practice.
“I love this a lot more than lifting and running and doing all kinds of the bad stuff,” Manziel said.
He didn’t explain whether “bad stuff” included attending class.
To be fair sudden celebrity thrust upon on a 20-year-old who’s prone to do the things 20-year-olds do can be a lot to handle, especially in an age when one’s every action is instantaneously transmitted into the blogosphere.
Also, we still seem to expect that our college heroes to live up to a standard that was unrealistic in the days of George Gipp.
Manziel could be the poster child for the cause of college athletes being able to market their likenesses while still in school and challenging other rules that many see as antiquated.
The NCAA has already ruled that Manziel can keep any money he receives from trademark infringement, although he gets no cut from the No. 2 jerseys which blanket every outlet for Aggie gear.
“The rules are the rules, and there’s nothing I can do to change that,” Manziel said when asked if that bothers him.
Manziel is thinking about his future earning potential though.
He’s in the process of taking out insurance in case he’s injured this season, as the NCAA allows those who expect to be taken in the first three rounds of the draft to do so.
However, nobody seems to agree on Manziel’s pro potential. In a recent Sports Illustrated article, one anonymous general manager said his game doesn’t translate to the NFL because of his reckless style and another said he like his style but is worried about his size.
It might not matter. Manziel says he loves Agglieland so much, he might stick around for five or six years.
With that, Manziel cut his interview session short, saying he had to take a test.
“On campus,” he added.
Insert Aggie joke here.