Lewis: Archie Manning stresses patience for Johnny Football

NEW ORLEANS - Archie Manning and Paul Manziel shared a conversation Thursday about a subject Manning has long known about and Manziel is learning: having a son thrust into the spotlight.

In Manning's case, it was actually two - Peyton and Eli, who arrived at college with great hoopla and have managed to navigate the pitfalls of celebrity quite well in their professional football careers. Of course, it helped that Archie had been pretty well known during his playing days.

For Manziel, it's seeing his son, Johnny, become the first freshman Heisman Trophy winner as he quarterbacked Texas A&M to a 12-2 record in 2012, setting a number of NCAA, Southeastern Conference and school marks in the process. And with that fame has come relentless scrutiny for his off-the-field actions, much of which has not been flattering.

Johnny Football with a wad of cash in a casino. Johnny Football taking all of his classes online. Johnny Football hanging out with bikini-clad coeds at Cabo San Lucas. Johnny Football wearing beads and a purple hat in the French Quarter during Mardi Gras.

ESPN's "College Football Live" suggested Thursday that the first offering for the new SEC Network be a Johnny Manziel reality show.

You get the picture.

"There are always people who would rather see you fail than succeed," Paul Manziel said Thursday after the presentation of the Manning Award to his son. "Johnny doesn't always understand that."

But Johnny Manziel, who was on hand to receive the Sugar Bowl-sponsored award that goes to the nation's top quarterback, said he's getting there.

"I didn't really know what it was going be like right after the Heisman," he said. "I continue to slip up every now and then with people you think you can trust but you really can't. Hopefully I'm starting to piece some things together and figure it all out."

Manziel's also being made an unofficial spokesman for college athletes on any number of issues, particularly how much they should be able to capitalize on their fame while in college.

There have been an untold number of replica Manziel Texas A&M jerseys (without his name on the back) sold since last season. And earlier this week, the school announced it was adding some 20,000 seats to Kyle Field, which will bring capacity to 102,500 and make it the largest in the SEC.

Just call it the wing that Johnny Football built.

"That would be a cool deal," Manziel said. "But I don't think that will happen."

And on the notion of paying players: "I'm happy and blessed to receive what I do. But if they wanted to start giving us more, I would accept the checks."

Uh oh. Another Johnny Football moment.

"There have been a couple of days like that," Paul Manziel said. "It's a challenge."

Archie Manning can relate, even though Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and other social media were unknown during his time at Ole Miss (1968-70).

But even in the relative isolation of Oxford, Archie was seldom ignored. And while Johnny Football has YouTube songstresses crooning his name to the tune of "Johnny Angel," Manning had "The Ballad of Archie Who."

"I don't know how many things I had to sign for somebody's little brother and sister," he said. "I remember once in an economics class one day, this guy had 20 baseball cards he thought I ought to sign for him. But no doubt it's harder now. There's just no privacy anymore."

Still, Manning added, people should remember that Manziel is a college student, one young enough that he has three seasons of eligibility left.

"The best advice I can give to Johnny and his family is to have a little patience," he said. "People can demand a lot of you. Just keep your priorities and enjoy the journey."

And for Paul Manziel, there's more counseling available.

"Archie said if I need him to shout out," he said. "I'm sure I will."

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