Manziel on the hot seat at SEC media days

semerson@macon.comJuly 17, 2013 

HOOVER, Ala. -- Johnny Manziel was so eloquent, so adept with his responses, so surprisingly composed, that it took a perusal of his comments to see what he was not -- apologetic.

The reigning Heisman Trophy winner never explicitly said he was sorry for anything that has happened this offseason. He did imply it. But even with his head coach talking about Manziel’s “poor decisions,” Manziel maintained his offseason of headlines wasn’t a huge problem.

“Sometimes it’s been a little blown up, but that’s just how things are,” he said, peering out at a horde of reporters Wednesday.

SEC media days came at an opportune time for Texas A&M and Manziel. A Texas A&M official said the school wanted to put to rest Manziel’s problem child status and move on to the season.

Manziel, wearing a suit and a smile, did his best.

This past weekend, Manziel made an early exit from the Manning Passing Camp, where he was a counselor. There were initial Internet rumors that Manziel was hung over, but he denied that Wednesday, saying he overslept after his cell phone battery went dead.

The decision to depart was “mutual,” he claimed, and he said the Manning brothers invited him back. Peyton Manning, in a statement to ESPN, confirmed that.

“There’s nothing more to talk (about) and the rumors about the other things weren’t really true,” Manziel said. “I just overslept and missed a meeting.”

But recently Manziel did plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge from a June 2012 arrest, just before his Heisman-winning season. Manziel was arrested for failing to properly identify himself to police after a fight in College Station.

Manziel also has had an interesting Twitter persona, but he hasn’t tweeted since June 15. His Twitter timeline does not include the tweet that probably caused the hiatus: a Saturday night statement that he couldn’t wait to get out of college. Reportedly, Manziel was upset about a parking ticket.

“At the end of the day, I hope people realize I’m a 20-year-old kid in college,” Manziel said. “I’m trying to enjoy my life. I’m continuing to learn as the days and the weeks go on. I’ve made my mistakes, obviously, I need to learn from them, not make the same one twice.”

Manziel’s two teammates at media days had a fairly lonely existence, with just a few reporters milling about them. Offensive lineman Jake Matthews, an All-America candidate, shrugged off a question about Manziel’s offseason and admitted to getting a bit tired about being asked.

“I wish you guys cared more about me,” Matthews said, smiling.

Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin didn’t dance around the offseason issues with his star quarterback. It was the first question he was asked Wednesday in the main media room, and Sumlin said he felt Manziel would benefit by going through media days.

“Is he perfect? No. I think he has done some things that he’s not very proud of, has made some poor decisions,” Sumlin said. “He’s made some good decisions. Unfortunately, the poor decisions are the ones that are really publicized.”

Manziel has learned that.

“There are situations you learn to shy away from,” he said. “I used to be a person that watched ESPN and ‘SportsCenter’ all day, every day. I shy away from that now.”

Manziel’s antics have gained plenty of attention from the ranks of other Heisman winners.

Desmond Howard, the Heisman winner in 1991, cited a John F. Kennedy quote on Wednesday when he said, “To those whom much is given, much is expected.” Then Howard added, “A huge responsibility comes along with the Heisman.”

Another Heisman winner, Tim Tebow, has reached out to Manziel. The two have been unable to connect so far, with Manziel saying he didn’t recognize Tebow’s number.

“I’m not Tebow,” Manziel said at one point. “I’m different in many ways.”

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