Manziel likely to bolt for NFL after next season

For weeks now, Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel has been peppered with questions about whether he will declare for the NFL Draft.

Not the draft coming up at the end of April. Manziel is being quizzed about the 2014 NFL Draft, more than a year from now.

Manziel still has to complete his sophomore season – his third season in college – before he’s even allowed to apply for entry into the NFL.

You might as well mark him as goner, though. Not because he will be physically and mentally ready for the NFL, or because he is a guaranteed top pick.

The reason Manziel will leave Texas A&M early: If he doesn’t, he will suffocate.

Manziel is currently living a life under constant surveillance. He can’t make a move without it appearing on social media, which quickly makes the leap to mainstream media.

If he attends an NBA game, it’s a story. If he goes to the Super Bowl, it’s a big story. Same for Mardi Gras. If he goes to a club or a casino after winning the Cotton Bowl, it’s a bigger story.

Recently, pictures of Manziel celebrating Spring Break made national news. Twice.

At first it was because a shirtless Manziel was pictured sporting a tattoo that looked like the Texas Longhorns logo. Manziel was later forced to take to Twitter and say the tattoo was a fake – likely a temporary henna tattoo.

Then another pictured surfaced of Manziel holding a bottle of tequila while partying with friends on a beach. He wasn’t drinking from the bottle and, although smiling, did not appear to be in a state of total inebriation.

Oh, and the picture was taken in Mexico, where the drinking age is 18. Manziel is 20, but it was apparently shocking to some that he would be caught on camera holding a bottle of alcohol. If that were any kind of misbehavior, thousands of college kids would be in serious trouble every weekend.

Manziel is acting like any other college kid. Well, any college kid who has the resources or connections to get to big events like the Super Bowl and Mardi Gras.

The problem for him is that Manziel Mania makes his every public appearance newsworthy. Every other week it’s a new controversy, or at least a false controversy.

Before the spring break adventure, the internet was buzzing when Manziel revealed he was taking all of his courses online this semester.

That rubs some people the wrong way. To them, it gives the he’s only there to play football and doesn’t have to go to class.

The reality is Manziel tried taking a class on campus this semester, and small class, but on the first day his presence proved to be too big a distraction to the other students.

It’s not like Manziel is trying to isolate himself from his fellow students. Someone who is constantly photographed socializing with friends obviously likes to be around people.

And like it or not, online coursework is the future of education. As education costs rise and education funding continues to be cut, online instruction will become more prevalent.

In some circumstances, online classes have been proven to be more effective than sitting in brick-and-mortar classrooms. Manziel still takes his tests on campus, so it’s not like someone else can do all of his coursework for him online.

Living under a constant spotlight, it’s no wonder Manziel likes to get away and blow off steam. However, before he can take one of his trips, he clears everything with A&M’s compliance office. Everything from where he’s staying to who’s paying for it is documented.

It’s remarkable that Manziel remains as forthcoming and personable with the media as he was at the recent Davey O’Brien Award banquet. Professional athletes and entertainers who are as hounded as Manziel often turn surly.

With three more seasons of college eligibility left, the odds are that someday Manziel will get caught up in a controversy that can’t be explained away in a tweet. Not that Manziel or A&M would intentionally do anything wrong, but put anyone’s life under a microscope and it’s bound to turn up something that doesn’t look right.

Of course, Manziel has already had a brush with the law since coming to A&M. He was arrested for an incident outside a College Station bar and gave police a fake ID. That happened last June, before he became Johnny Football. If it happens this June, the internet might crash.

Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin has said winning the Heisman shouldn’t be a punishment for Manziel, but perhaps it’s a been a blessing that no freshman had won the award until now.

It’s also telling that there’s been only one repeat Heisman winner, Ohio State’s Archie Griffin. It’s difficult to repeat the success of a Heisman season with the attention that comes with the award.

If Manziel completes his college eligibility, he’s looking at three more seasons of constant inspection and documentation of his every move.

At some point, the NFL will look like a safe haven. At least then, he won’t have to worry about NCAA rules or causing a commotion just by stepping on campus.

Getting to watch such a dynamic player for three more seasons would be good for college football, but not necessarily good for Johnny Football.

Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire