HOOVER, Ala. ‚Äî A dizzying year transformed Johnny Manziel into Johnny Football and, in the eyes of some, something akin to Johnny Rotten.
He‚Äôs gone from an obscure quarterback to a Heisman Trophy winner who became a rock star and oftentimes was perceived to party like one.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs been such a whirlwind and it‚Äôs happened so quick,‚Äù Manziel said. ‚ÄúAt the end of day, I‚Äôm not going for the Miss America pageant. I‚Äôm playing football. I‚Äôm a 20-year-old kid in college. Take that for what it‚Äôs worth. I‚Äôm enjoying my life and continuing to live life to the fullest. Hopefully that doesn‚Äôt upset too many people.‚Äù
Life in the fish bowl for the Texas A&M redshirt sophomore hit a crescendo on Wednesday at SEC Media Days.
‚ÄúJust another day,‚Äù Manziel said before taking the ESPN stage for a live SportsCenter morning interview.
‚ÄúJust another quiet Wednesday morning,‚Äù anchor Joe Tessitore said.
Reporters crowded behind the makeshift SEC set in the Wynfrey Hotel hallway, making it look a little like a Saturday College GameDay scene. Later when Manziel sat at a table in the large media ballroom, a large ESPN camera front and center blocked off some in the horde of reporters during his 30-minute session.
‚ÄúJohnny Football, I guess I heard he was in here today,‚Äù Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said later. ‚ÄúCaused some excitement.‚Äù
The 20-year old was calm and composed as he answered for all the incidents that have kept his name in the news this offseason.
On his early departure from the Manning Passing Academy last weekend in Louisiana after he was late for practices in his role as a camp counselor: ‚ÄúI was not asked to leave. It was a mutual decision. I wanted to be there but at the end of the day I was pretty tired [from a hectic summer schedule] and wanted to get back to College Station and just relax.‚Äù
He said he overslept and his cell phone died. The Manning camp put out a statement saying Manziel was ill. There have been other reasons bandied about.
‚ÄúThe speculation of me being too hungover or whatever it was to show up for meetings and the next day and that‚Äôs the reason I missed were absolutely incorrect,‚Äù he said.
On his infamous tweets that he ‚Äúcan‚Äôt wait to leave College Station‚Äù and ‚Äúplease please walk a day in my shoes‚Äù: ‚ÄúTwitter is what it is. I learned a lot from it. I probably hindered myself a little bit at times.‚Äù
On an offseason that included pleading guilty Monday to a misdemeanor charge for failing to identify himself to police after he got in a bar fight near campus in June 2012: ‚ÄúI‚Äôve just made mistakes. I‚Äôm continuing to grow up. I haven‚Äôt done anything that I think is catastrophic.‚Äù
The first freshman to win the stiff-armed trophy hasn‚Äôt exactly stiff-armed the offseason.
‚ÄúI think he‚Äôs done some things that he‚Äôs not very proud of, has made some poor decisions,‚Äù Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said. ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs made some good decisions. Unfortunately, the poor decisions are the one that are really publicized.‚Äù
After breaking the SEC total offense record of another Heisman winner (Cam Newton in 2010) with 5,116 yards, leading the Aggies to an upset over No. 1 Alabama and scrambling and dashing his way to lead the SEC in rushing with 1,410 yards, he hit Letterman and Leno and showed up on cell phone photos and Twitter timelines while taking classes online.
There he was at the Super Bowl and courtside at the NBA Finals living it up.
‚ÄúI knew the spotlight was bright,‚Äù Manziel said. ‚ÄúI knew all my actions were being watched, and lately it‚Äôs just been magnified. I‚Äôm OK with that. It is what it is. You have to continue to adapt in your life and I‚Äôm continuing to learn.‚Äù
He‚Äôs one of five Texas A&M players on the cover of the team‚Äôs media guide (along with Sumlin), but Manziel is the face of a program coming off an 11-2 season and win in the Cotton Bowl.
And he‚Äôs the one who had previously been in shutdown mode on Twitter since June 15, but broke that Wednesday evening to respond to rapper Drake.
‚ÄúHe hasn‚Äôt been on there for the last month,‚Äù Sumlin said before Manziel tweeted Drake. ‚ÄúObviously, there was something to that discussion.‚Äù
Manziel said he asked Texas A&M for some help to deal with all the stress he feels, so he‚Äôs met with counselors.
He‚Äôs played phone tag with another Heisman Trophy winner in the spotlight, one Tim Tebow ‚Äî ‚ÄúI‚Äôm not Tebow. I‚Äôm different in many ways,‚Äù Manziel said ‚Äî and spoken a couple of times with another, in Newton from Auburn. LeBron James gave him his cell phone number. He hung out with Drake at a concert in Toronto. His well-traveled ways weren‚Äôt over.
After a full morning of answering question after question in the spectacle that is SEC Media Days, Manziel was heading to Los Angeles for the ESPY awards on Wednesday night, where he was vying for Best Male College Athlete and Best Breakthrough Athlete.
He said his focus will soon turn fully to football.
‚ÄúMy offseason, all this stuff that‚Äôs gone on, will have no effect on me going into the season,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúI guarantee you when August comes, when it‚Äôs time to get ready to go and it‚Äôs football time, I will be absolutely 115 percent prepared to go.‚Äù