NCAA FB

Column: Johnny Football's real education beginning

Share This Story

   
 
(Eds: Corrects that Sumlin was talking about autograph gesture in 10th paragraph and Manziel's age in 16th paragraph. With AP Photos.)By JIM LITKEAP Sports Columnist

The real education of Johnny Football is just beginning. So he better enjoy all the clowning while he still can. He's about to learn there's no more wearying job in sports than being a marked man all the time.

For starters, you're always looking over your shoulder for the next guy trying to make his name. It's dispiriting, too, hearing nothing but boos on the road and knowing that even the guys who are supposed to have your back think of you as a calculated risk.

A few athletes have done it well for a while. But you can count on one hand how many of those - Ty Cobb comes to mind - parlayed the role into a long and productive career.

At the moment, sure, it seems like nobody can stop Manziel.

The NCAA whiffed on its shot and Rice - Texas A&M's opening opponent - turned out to be overmatched. And this weekend's opponent, Sam Houston State, arrives straight from the tomato-can division.

Neither A&M's chancellor, a fanboy named John Sharp, nor it's coach, Kevin Sumlin, who got a big raise riding the Johnny Football wave last season, are inclined to change a thing about him. He brings in too much money. Judging by recent remarks from his father, Paul, even Manziel's parents have given up.

One referee in last Saturday's game did his best, slapping Manziel with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the fourth quarter that even Sumlin couldn't ignore. The coach finally benched his star - after Manziel had delivered three touchdowns, and as many insults, at the expense of Rice's defenders - and then called it a ''foolish penalty.''

''No matter what the comments are, he's going to face that every week with people chirping. That's not OK,'' Sumlin added, ''and obviously I addressed that on the sideline after it happened.''

Of course, that was also after Manziel had apparently mimicked signing an autograph after he got tackled and then pretended to count some cash after throwing a TD.

''If I'd seen that,'' Sumlin said about the ''autograph'' pantomime, ''I'd have done something about it.''

But like most coaches, Sumlin wasn't about to commit to anything until he had a chance to watch the film.

''And if that did happen,'' he added, ''I will address that.''

Sumlin better - and fast. Next up after Sam Houston on A&M's dance card is defending national champion Alabama, and you can bet Nick Saban has watched film of the Aggies' opener more than once already.

The Crimson Tide are still fuming over last year's upset - at their place no less - and being reduced to bit actors on the stage where the whole Johnny Football drama caught fire.

And don't think that Saban is beyond teaching the kid a lesson about how exhausting it is to be cast as the villain nearly every time out. Saban could give anyone who asked chapter and verse on the subject. The insatiable work ethic that marks his whole career is a testament to that. Despite three national titles, it still makes him chase each win more relentlessly than the last.

Manziel will turn 21 in December, but even judged by the most charitable standard, he's headed in the exact opposite direction. He's avoided real trouble so far, but his offseason yielded a steady stream of questionable choices and annoying distractions. When those things happen, the higher-ups in charge always say they need to get that ballplayer back on the playing field, because that's their ''office,'' the one place where they can get away from things that don't really matter.

Except it's not, at least not when Manziel is allowed to pull some of the same stupid pranks he did when no one was around to play grown-up. The referees will be watching him more closely and the teams he'll face will have had plenty of time to look at exactly what made Johnny run and pass so effectively the first time around. His opponents, too, have plenty more buttons to push.

None of this seems to have sunk in with Manziel, no matter how many times those around him protest that it has. Sumlin recalled how just the night before the Rice game, Manziel gave a speech in the locker room stressing ''that everyone's individual actions affect the football team.'' Then he went and played as if Manziel meant everyone but him.

Talent is a wonderful thing, and Johnny Football has plenty. It's gotten him this far. But unless things change, he's on the front end of what will turn out to be a very short learning curve.

---

Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org and follow him at Twitter.com/JimLitke.

Tagged: Rice

Related Stories

Member Comments

Please note by clicking on "Post comment" you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Use and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Be Polite. Inappropriate posts may be removed by the moderator.

powered by

College Football Pick'em on FOX


NCAA FB Videos

Sumlin annoyed by media's Manziel questions Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Kevin Sumlin responds to questions about life after Johnny Football by toying wi...

AJ Pasquale's journey back to UCLA Posted: Jun 17, 2014
UCLA football ops intern AJ Pasquale describes his own personal journey after th...

Winston issued adult civil citation Posted: Apr 30, 2014
Get the latest news surrounding Jameis Winston's recent shoplifting fiasco.

Get Inside the Locker Room with Scout.com

More Than Sports on MSN

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    Nike Florida Gators Gridiron 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - Royal Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Florida_Gators/browse/featuredproduct/759777/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_759000/ff_759777_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Florida Gators Gridiron 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - Royal Blue
    Nike Michigan State Spartans Football 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - White http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Michigan_State_Spartans/browse/featuredproduct/760171/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_760000/ff_760171_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Michigan State Spartans Football 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - White
    Nike USC Trojans Fight On My School T-Shirt - Cardinal http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_USC_Trojans/browse/featuredproduct/761373/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_761000/ff_761373_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike USC Trojans Fight On My School T-Shirt - Cardinal
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Crimson http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/829709/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_829000/ff_829709_xl.jpg&w=100 64.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Crimso..
    Nike LSU Tigers Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Purple http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_LSU_Tigers/browse/featuredproduct/829740/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_829000/ff_829740_xl.jpg&w=100 49.99 Nike LSU Tigers Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Purple
    Nike Oklahoma Sooners Legacy 91 Dri-FIT Adjustable Coaches Cap - Crimson http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Oklahoma_Sooners/browse/featuredproduct/830935/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_830000/ff_830935_xl.jpg&w=100 21.95 Nike Oklahoma Sooners Legacy 91 Dri-FIT Adjustable Coaches Cap - Crimson
    adidas Notre Dame Fighting Irish Hot Sideline Jacket - Navy Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Notre_Dame_Fighting_Irish/browse/featuredproduct/861243/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_861000/ff_861243_xl.jpg&w=100 69.95 adidas Notre Dame Fighting Irish Hot Sideline Jacket - Navy Blue
    adidas Nebraska Cornhuskers Sideline Hot Quarter Zip Jacket - Scarlet http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Nebraska_Cornhuskers/browse/featuredproduct/861247/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_861000/ff_861247_xl.jpg&w=100 69.95 adidas Nebraska Cornhuskers Sideline Hot Quarter Zip Jacket - Scarlet
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Players Locker Room Snapback Hat - Charcoal/Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/1087345/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1087000/ff_1087345_xl.jpg&w=100 29.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Players Locker Room Snapba..
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - Ash http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/1093431/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1093000/ff_1093431_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - Ash