Handling fame: Manziel says he has sought counseling
by Marq Burnett
mburnett@annistonstar.com
Jul 17, 2013 | 2735 views |  0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel talks with reporters during Southeastern Conference football Media Days in Hoover. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel talks with reporters during Southeastern Conference football Media Days in Hoover. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
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HOOVER -- This must be what Florida players felt like when Tim Tebow called “The Swamp" home.

Or what Auburn players experienced when Cam Newton set the college football world on fire during his one season with the Tigers.

And this is what teammates of players such as Joe Namath, Bo Jackson and other great college athletes would have dealt with, had social media been around in their eras.

Some parts of the spotlight seem to be getting to Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, last year's Heisman Trophy winner as a redshirt freshman. He said he’s been dealing with stress and sought help to manage it.

“I met with counselors about stuff I was struggling with, the things that come along with this and to come up with a checklist of how to get through those things,” Manziel said Wednesday, during Day 2 of SEC Media Days at the Wynfrey Hotel.

His every move is scrutinized. His posts on Twitter spread like fire. Reporters followed him from one room to the next at the Wynfrey, hoping to find some nugget of information he hadn’t revealed in previous interviews.

Manziel was besieged by reporters Wednesday, just days after his early exit from the Manning Passing Academy, the latest of his well-publicized off-field hiccups since the 2012 season.

He addressed the Manning-camp mishap, saying he missed a meeting because he “overslept.”

“There’s nothing more to talk, and the rumors about the other things (such as partying and dehydration) weren’t really true,” he said. “I just overslept and missed a meeting. I absolutely lived up to it.

“There was no excuse for not having my phone charged or having an alarm set.”

His two teammates at Media Days, left tackle Jake Matthews and defensive back Toney Hurd, answered questions about Manziel from the few reporters who didn’t want to get caught up in the circus.

Matthews was asked two questions, one about becoming the left tackle and the other about former Aggie Luke Joeckel, before being hit with four questions about Manziel’s behavior and whether Manziel has become a distraction to the team.

“Especially as an offensive lineman, I’m trying to keep my group together,” Matthews said. “It doesn’t really get to us too much.”

Hurd deflected as well when asked if hearing the offseason talk about Manziel was frustrating.

“I feel like Johnny’s a great player, and he works hard every day,” Hurd said after chuckling. “I’m sure the coaches will handle the off-the-field issues.”

Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin finished his opening statement Wednesday, addressing personnel concerns and the Aggies’ 11-2 season in 2012, then immediately received a question about how he feels his quarterback is representing the program on and off the field.

“Well, I think, obviously, on the field, he has done an exceptional job,” Sumlin said. “I think off the field, there’s no question that he’s made some mistakes.”

Sumlin went on to compare handling Manziel to raising kids and how no one’s system is perfect. Sumlin called it a “growing process” and said Manziel could be better off the field.

It’s become a balancing act. Manziel works over defenses, but also brings some unflattering attention to the program.

He’s adored by fans. His distractors dissect his every move.

In the grand scheme of things, Manziel’s off-the-field antics might not be bigger than those of many other 20-year-old college students. But fair or unfair, he doesn’t get the opportunity to be a “regular 20-year-old college student.”

Regular students don’t get to win the Heisman trophy or text LeBron James or pick Peyton and Eli Manning’s brain at a quarterback camp.

Still, Manziel is embracing certain aspects of his new found fame.

Regarding the offseason, he said, “Crazy’s a good word for others. For me, it’s been fun working out, living life and just enjoying it.”

Marq Burnett covers Alabama for The Anniston Star. Contact him at mburnett@annistonstar.com. Follow on Twitter @Marq_Burnett.

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