In listening to Johnny Manziel‘s SEC Media Day news conference, one thing is clear: Johnny Football wants the world to know he is 20 years old.
The Texas A&M quarterback repeated his age over and over again in speaking to the media. Manziel wants to be a normal 20-year-old college student. But therein lies the problem with Manziel. He’s not a normal 20-year-old college student.
When I was 20, I slept through class more times than I could possibly count. I even slept through an alarm once in college, missed the bus to a college baseball game and had to take a taxi to the game in full uniform. But Emerson College baseball is a lot different than Texas A&M football or even the Manning Passing Academy.
Manziel got booted from the camp because he slept through meetings and did not arrive until noon. There are real repercussions to that act of brief immaturity. Since the Manning Passing Academy (popularly shortened to the MPA), Mike Mayock and several other draft analysts have been praising A.J. McCarron, Devin Gardner, Bryn Renner and other college quarterbacks for how well they threw during drills. Those analysts didn’t get to watch Manziel, because he was already gone by the time he could have put on a show.
So, while my playing time was cut because I showed up late after staying up until the early hours of the morning playing Halo 2 with my friends and didn’t hear my phone’s alarm go off, there weren’t millions of dollars on the line. No one who was going to determine my future knew about my lack of responsibility or that I missed warm-ups.
Whether Manziel slept in because he was drinking the night before or because his phone was dead doesn’t matter. All Manziel has to do is prove himself to be dependable and mature for the next year or two, and all the benefits he will reap will far outweigh a couple of years of fun in college.
If Manziel’s chief priority is to have fun in college, then by all means, he should do that. But if that’s what he wants to do, he needs to know that he won’t reap the full benefits of his potential. Among “normal” college students, 99 percent would choose to have Manziel’s football skill set and bountiful future over parties with their friends.
NFL teams value maturity, getting the job done, following through on commitments and staying out of trouble. Manziel hasn’t let his immaturity affect him on the football field yet, but his showing at the Manning Passing Academy already has NFL teams wary.
John Middlekauff, a former Eagles scout who is still tied in to the NFL community, said as much on Twitter.
Manziel’s size may already scare teams away, but his propensity to grab the spotlight for all the wrong reasons could really do him in. Don’t forget that Manziel was arrested in June 2012 on accusations of getting into a fight and presenting a fake ID.
It’s entirely possibly that Manziel matures late, like Ben Roethlisberger or numerous non-quarterbacks in the NFL. But if teams view Manziel as having a similarly strong skill set to Teddy Bridgewater, McCarron or Gardner, which player will they take? The one who sleeps through commitments and gets arrested or the other 20-year-olds who have managed to make it through college without similar issues?
Manziel said he watched Vince Young and Michael Vick while they were in college. But Manziel doesn’t need to look that far back to learn a lesson on how to act off the field. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III were model citizens off the field at Stanford and Baylor, respectively. They were only in the headlines for what they did on Saturdays.
Those two are obviously different human beings than Manziel, but surely they wanted to act like normal 20-year-olds in college just like Johnny Football. But they could see the promise up ahead and determined that whatever trouble they could get into off the field wasn’t worth mortgaging their future over.
If the damage hasn’t already been done, Manziel needs to learn that he’s not a normal 20-year-old, no matter how badly he wants to be. This holds especially true in the age of social media, when if you’re out, you will be tweeted, Instagrammed, Vined or Facebook’d about. And the media will find those pictures.
Not to sound corny, but the future is in Manziel’s hands. If he can’t mature, the NFL will take notice. If he does show signs of maturity, teams will also take notice. No NFL team wants its future starting quarterback to be a normal 20- or 21-year-old. NFL starting quarterbacks earn the money they do and play at such a high level because they are special, not normal.
Manziel, like Luck and Griffin before him, has to show he’s special.