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Manziel knows how to use media

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Greg Couch

Greg Couch has been a national columnist at AOL Fanhouse and The Sporting News and an award-winning columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times. He was featured twice in "Best American Sports Writing" and was recognized by the US Tennis Writers Association for best column writing and match coverage. He covers tennis on his personal blog. Follow him on Twitter.

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HOOVER, Ala.

Johnny Manziel is so tweeted out, so watched, so TMZ’d that he said he feels like Justin Bieber. He said at Wednesday’s SEC media session he has spoken with a couple counselors to help deal with all the stress. He has talked, too, with Cam Newton about dealing with sudden attention. He has hung out with LeBron James to discuss it. He hasn’t talked much with Tim Tebow yet but does have a message to return.

Yes, his constant stream of little screw-ups has been about the modern social media world Manziel lives in, blown out of proportion to where a college kid can’t even have a beer without ...

Oh please. Johnny Football isn’t being burned by social media. He’s milking social media, using it to make every last one of his dreams come true. It’s getting him everything he wants, the usual Heisman experience on steroids.

(No, I did not just suggest that Manziel is on steroids.)

Manziel said Wednesday, several times, that the highlight of this year has been talking with LeBron. Just sitting there like two friends. They traded cell numbers. Texts, too.

I mean, this time last year, Manziel was just some nobody kid hoping to get a chance to play quarterback at Texas A&M. Now, he’s friends with Drake. You can’t blame him for eating this up, but let’s not start making excuses or using the entry to his dreamland as the excuse for his mistakes.

Manziel isn’t just some dumb kid. He’s Twitter savvy. He is also now the world’s biggest name-dropper.

He was the center of attention at SEC Media Days on Wednesday, and, sounding like a defendant well-prepared by his attorney, set down several talking points about his wild year.

1) He did not miss a meeting at the Manning passing camp because of any partying the night before, or any hangover. He just overslept, and his cellphone was dead.

2) He’s just a 20-year-old kid living and learning.

3) Stories all over Twitter and everywhere else about him are wrong.

The first story about why he missed the meeting at the Manning Camp, then was sent home, was that he had been out partying. Then, it was that he was ill. Then, I think his dad said he was dehydrated.

So why did he miss the meeting? Why did he oversleep?

“I wasn’t football-ready,” Manziel said. “I was tired. It was exhausting. It had nothing to do with activities the night before. Just a really busy schedule in June and July. Probably bit off more than I can chew.”

He also said leaving the camp was a mutual decision and that he wasn’t kicked out.

But Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron was Manziel’s roommate at the camp. When he got up in the morning and left for the meeting, why didn’t he wake up Manziel?

“I’m definitely not putting it on him,” Manziel said. “Definitely my fault, 115 percent, 120 percent.”

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What about the New York Daily News report that you weren’t even in the room?

“All you had to do was come knock on my door, open my dorm room,” he said. “I’d have been right there asleep with my dead phone next to me.”

It occurs to me that McCarron, who will talk Thursday, has Manziel’s reputation in his hands.

I’m not being critical of Manziel’s offseason. He’s just having as much fun as he possibly can, as if he thinks this is all there is going to be for him. Last year’s Heisman winner is like the guy who hits the lottery and suddenly finds that he gets to hang out with rich people.

How do you expect the invisible kid sitting in the back corner to behave when he’s suddenly the most popular kid in school?

“I hope people still see that I’m a 20-year-old in college,” he said, roughly 50 times. “I’m just trying to enjoy my life, and I hope that doesn’t upset too many people. I’m continuing to learn as the days and weeks go on. I’ve made mistakes and will learn from them and try not to make the same mistake twice.”

Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said his role with Manziel is like a parent’s. You teach your kids to do the right things, and then hope they do: “Off the field, there’s no question he’s made mistakes. ... We’ve had discussions on that. He has done some things he’s not very proud of.”

After hearing Manziel, I’m not sure I got that. In fact, I think Johnny Name-Dropper is proud of almost everything he has done, everyone he has met, just as any 20-year-old would be. That doesn’t include the way the Manning camp ended.

But Manziel compares himself to Bieber, and that's a good connection: Bieber is using social media to build himself, too.

Reporters are a few steps behind on Manziel’s story. It’s hard for a lot of media types to hold more than a story angle or two at a time in their heads. The new thing is this wild new, confusing world of social media? Sure, for a lot in the media.
But not for Johnny Manziel, 20-year-old college kid. He grew up in this world. He is comfortable with it.

“I knew the spotlight was bright,” he said. “I knew all my actions were being watched, but lately it’s just been magnified.”

That’s where I’m calling BS. But Manziel’s time with the media was up Wednesday. And when it was over, he left to go back to College Station.

Oops, no he didn’t. He left for the ESPYs.

Tagged: Auburn, Texas A&M, Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel

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