SAN FRANCISCO — Leigh Steinberg has been in the sports industry for a long time and knows a thing or two about managing big-time athletes. But even the veteran sports agent acknowledges the landscape has changed dramatically in recent years.
For proof, look no further than Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel, who seemingly has fallen out of favor in Cleveland after creating a polarizing image off the field.
“You have to talk to him and say, ‘Look, do you want to be a Hall of Fame-type player? Do you really want football?” Steinberg told NESN.com’s Michaela Vernava on Wednesday on Radio Row when asked about handling players’ off-the-field conduct. “Because if you do, you have to put football first.”
Manziel was a superstar at Texas A&M, where he won the Heisman Trophy for the 2012 season. The man known as “Johnny Football” has found himself in hot water several times since being drafted by the Browns in the first round in 2014, however, and he’s made headlines more so for his wild lifestyle and his hard-partying ways than anything he’s done on the gridiron.
“So the problem is that when he did a whole series of endorsements and is entering a year in which he’s probably not going to play his best football because he’s adjusting, it puts so much pressure on him,” Steinberg said. “Then when he poses with celebrities, it creates an environment, an image where it looks like he’s not serious about football. You have to prove to your owner, front office, coach and your other teammates that this is first for you.
“Once Troy Aikman, Steve Young, Warren Moon — players I’ve worked with — or Ben Roethlisberger, (players) like that, had achieved, then you can do endorsements, then people are a little less critical,” Steinberg added. “But until then, you had better just focus on building a football career.”
For an extended interview with Steinberg, visit NESN’s YouTube page.
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