Aggies’ Manziel adjusting to a new normal

ARLINGTON, Texas — Plenty has changed for Johnny Manziel and his Texas A&M teammates since they last played a football game Nov. 24.

Manziel has become a national star thanks to becoming the first-ever freshman to win the Heisman Trophy.

And his teammates have become much better photographers thanks to hanging out with Manziel.

“I always laugh because every time someone sees him they always want to take a picture and I say ‘I’d love to take the picture for you,'” senior linebacker Jonathan Stewart said. “I’m getting a lot better at pictures. It’s funny but he takes it all so perfectly. He tries to treat everything like it’s the same.”

But Manziel knows his life is nothing like the one he had before he won the Heisman. Manziel has spent the last month criss-crossing the country, appearing on television shows, going to sporting events and meeting stars like LeBron James, Jeff Gordon, Megan Fox and the Jonas Brothers. And now that Manziel is a national figure, everything he does is scrutinized, whether it’s how he got tickets to a football game or who he’s dating.

It’s a big change for the 20-year-old from Kerrville but it’s one he’s trying to take in stride.

“It’s different,” Manziel said Sunday during A&M’s media day for Friday’s Cotton Bowl. “It’s different knowing things will never be the same regardless. I can say it’s going to be normal and it’s going to be how it used to be but it’s not.”

Manziel found that out the first time he tried to go to the mall after taking home the Heisman.

“I just went to go buy a video game and pick up a few things and I couldn’t really do that,” said Manziel. “I might have to go with a mustache sometimes or maybe a hoodie or something.”

Manziel was joking about the mustache but not about the constant attention he now receives. 

“Before you could put pictures on Twitter and it’s not a big deal,” Manziel said. “Now you put a picture of a Christmas gift or a picture of you sitting at a game and you have NCAA violation this, illegal benefit that. It’s something that people enjoy doing stuff like that. It’s crazy to see how the microscope has come down on me.”

The focus will be on Manziel again Friday when the Aggies (10-2) take on Oklahoma (10-2) in a Cotton Bowl matchup at Cowboys Stadium that has a BCS game feel. The Aggies and Sooners were Big 12 rivals before A&M’s move to the SEC this season.

While the Aggies come into the game riding a five-game winning streak, the school has struggled against Oklahoma. The Sooners have won eight of the last nine meetings between the teams and feature a quarterback with a more impressive resume than Manziel’s in senior Landry Jones.

“Our focus is on the Cotton Bowl and really learning OU and what we want to game plan,” Manziel said. “We have a general idea of how we feel they’ll play in the game. We know their schemes. We feel like we know what they do in most situations and who they are in the defense. I feel like we’ll be able to do the same thing we’ve done all year. We’re going to try and push tempo and establish some offense early.”

Manziel has been the key to establishing that tempo and A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin doesn’t expect that to change Friday.

He’s hoping to get the same pre-Heisman performance out of Manziel against the Sooners. His quarterback hasn’t shown him any signs since winning the award that things are going to change.

“People are watching to see what’s going to happen, No. 1,” Sumlin said. “He’s a 20-year-old kid. We have to be very, very cognizant of what’s going on. I think he understands that. A lot of things that have made him who he is you can’t shut that off.”