FORT WORTH, Texas – Johnny Manziel’s celebrity status has risen above and beyond that of the typical college sports star since winning the Heisman Trophy last season.
The Texas A&M quarterback said there is a way to top winning the Heisman as a freshman.
“A national championship,” Manziel said.
In a media session Monday prior to the Davey O’Brien Award banquet, Manziel said his goal for 2013 is a team-oriented one.
“For sure it’s not necessarily a Heisman,” Manziel said. “It’s a national championship that everybody on our team was let down that we didn’t win this year…So our goal this year is go 13-0 and win every game that you play in.
“If I go out next year and have 2,000 passing yards, whatever, and we win every game, that’s the biggest thing.”
Of course, if Texas A&M wins the national championship in 2013, it might hasten Manziel’s decision on whether to stay at Texas A&M another season or two. As a sophomore who redshirted, Manziel will be eligible for the 2014 draft if he chooses to come out early.
“A lot of things factor in to what you do going to the NFL,” Manziel said. “But for me, being a shorter guy (he’s 6-0), a chance at the NFL at a high draft pick, that’s something that I’ve only ever dreamed about. I love A&M and I love everything about it, so when the time comes I think it will be a hard decision.”
Not that Manziel is contemplating leaving any time soon. Manziel said he knows the cautionary tales of players who came out too soon, or stayed too long. For the time being, he just wants to enjoy playing in College Station.
“Right now it’s worrying about this upcoming season,” Manziel said. “If you’re fortunate enough to get a chance to go to the NFL draft, then you get to send your stuff in and see how you would be evaluated, when that time rolls around I guess we’ll worry about it then.”
For now, Manziel has other things to worry about. Like taking the tests he successfully pushed back until last week. Manziel said he is taking four online courses right now, which allows him time to attend awards banquets and major sporting events like the Super Bowl.
Taking the classes online also helps him avoid the crush of being a major celebrity on campus. He comes to campus now to lift weights and take the occasional test.
Manziel said he had a physical class this semester, but transferred to an online course after the first day in class.
“It was a class of 20-25. I didn’t think anything of it,” Manziel said. “It kind of turned into a little more of a big deal than I thought.”
Because Manziel has become such a big deal, he said his parents and he recently sat down with coach Kevin Sumlin, athletic director Eric Hyman and members of A&M compliance staff to make sure everyone was on the same page.
“Everything I do now, it’s such an ‘illegal benefit’ or something like that,” Manziel joked. “I feel like by now if I was doing something wrong compliance [A&M’s compliance office] would have definitely figured something out.”
In fact, Manziel had just gotten back from NBA All-Star weekend in Houston to pick up the Davey O’Brien national quarterback award. That was after his trip to Mardi Gras.
Manziel’s travels have been well-documented on Twitter and other social media. He’s often posted photos of himself, such as the one of him celebrating after the AT&T Cotton Bowl at a casino that caused a minor stir.
He said the prevalence of social media, now that he’s a celebrity, has taught him to have a thick skin.
“You’re just going to be scrutinized by some people regardless of what you do and you can’t please everybody,” Manziel said. “Just have thick skin and just let it roll off your back and not take it to heart.”
Manziel said he had booked his All-Star Weekend trip long before he had won any awards. Now, he said before every trip he runs everything past A&M’s compliance office, including who he’s going with, where they’re staying and how he’s paying for it.
“There’s college kids doing what I’m doing all around the country,” Manziel said. “People just think that I’m going wild with it, when it’s not like that.”
Manziel has gotten to meet a number of sports stars and other notables along the way. Of all the celebrities he’s met, the ones that impressed him the most?
“The Duck Dynasty guys,” Manziel said. “They’re nice. And very genuine people, because you don’t know what to expect. They look so scary, and they were great guys to hang out with for a day.”
Manziel still hasn’t been able to play golf with one of his football idols, Brett Favre. His dad is trying to arrange that.
Manziel’s has also become a big fan of Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who stands just 5-11.
“Now I am,” Manziel said. “I mean, you look at him and what he’s done this year and how he played. You look at his stature and some of the things he’s done, it’s impressive. The NFL… it’s changing.”
And Manziel is changing the expectations people have for college sports stars.