Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel was back on the field with his teammates at spring practice on Tuesday.
But the whirlwind season he had last year brings up the question of just how long the quarterback will remain an Aggie.
The quarterback became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy in 2012. He will be eligible for the NFL draft after the 2013 season since he redshirted his first season in College Station.
He knows questions about the possibility of leaving school early are inevitable. But he’s not thinking about that right now.
”I will just try to answer it the same way I do every time,” he said. ”It’s always been a dream of mine, but for now I’m very content and very happy where I am right now. So I love it here.”
Still, he admitted that he will consider all the possibilities when it is time.
”Whenever that decision comes, I will have to sit down and evaluate it just like you do with anything else in your life,” he said. ”With the NFL, if you have an opportunity to go, then you look at it. But I love this place, I love coach (Kevin) Sumlin and all my teammates here … I’m not in any rush to make a decision like that.”
Manziel is however taking steps to guard his future, and said after Tuesday’s practice that he is in the process of getting an insurance policy to protect him in case of injury.
”It’s just a precaution,” he said. ”I think there’s a lot of players out there that have done it in the past. You never know what could happen. Football is a dangerous sport, so you kind of have to make sure that you take the precaution.”
Sumlin said he tries to be there for Manziel as much as he can, but he’s careful not to overdo it with his words of wisdom.
”His life is forever changed,” Sumlin said. ”For me to tell him a lot, or anybody else to tell him a lot, it’s really kind of hard because nobody has been in those shoes. All we can do is give him advice. We’ve got a great support system here for him. We have great communication.”
Texas A&M went 11-2 in its first season in the SEC after moving from the Big 12, its first 11-win season since 1998. Manziel led the Aggies to a win at national champion Alabama, and became A&M’s first Heisman winner since 1957. Manziel threw for more than 3,700 yards and added more than 1,400 yards on the ground last year to win the award.
Last year at this time, Manziel was competing to be a starter. He knows things are much different now after the success he had in his first season. But the increased expectations won’t change his approach.
”I feel like we’re doing all right. We’re still just out here playing football, doing the same things that we did last year,” he said. ”We didn’t have a lot of expectations last year, and there’s a lot more talk this year. So for us, we just have to make sure that we continue to do the things that got us where we are today.”
Sumlin watched the development of Manziel throughout last season, and expects that progress to continue in his second year. He isn’t concerned that his work ethic will change because of what happened last year.
”As much as we talk to him, he’s as hard on himself as any of the coaches are,” Sumlin said. ”He wants to be great. Because of that he’ll work at it. He’s very, very honest and we’re honest with him about what we see. He continues to work to improve.”
The team practiced for about two hours on Tuesday wearing shorts. The Aggies will don pads for their next practice on Thursday.
The Aggies will use this spring to test out a revamped offensive line. There will be several changes to the group tasked with protecting Manziel, but the biggest one will be Jake Matthews taking over at left tackle for Outland Trophy winner Luke Joeckel, who left early for the draft.
”In the first few days, first weeks we’re still figuring out the pieces and what you have with guys,” Manziel said. ”There’s a lot of new guys coming in and you’re trying to plug guys in the offensive line. The first few weeks we’ll evaluate and make sure we get everybody plugged into the right places, and from there it’s just making sure that we continue to get better every week.”
Texas A&M also has a new offensive coordinator in Clarence McKinney, who took over after Kliff Kingsbury became the coach at Texas Tech. Manziel said that transition has been easy because McKinney has worked in Sumlin’s system for years, and they already had a good relationship.