ESPN released Wright Thompson's story on Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel Tuesday, giving a look into how the Heisman-winning quarterback's life has changed over the past year. The 20-year-old has gone from a nearly anonymous kid to a caricature dubbed Johnny Football, someone whose public image is no longer his to control. It's a fascinating read, and I suggest you read it in its entirety.
One of the new issues raised in Thompson's story is the distance that has grown between Texas A&M and certain members of the Manziel family, which in the past has struck out to defend Johnny from national media (ironically including, at one point, ESPN). It's a consistent thread throughout the story, which also details Manziel's relationship with his father, his undergoing therapy for alcohol and anger, and a touch of hope here and there.
On the mistrust building between the family and the school:
This January, Johnny's family wanted his copy of the Heisman, which the school told them hadn't arrived yet from New York, Paul says. So finally Paul contacted the Heisman Trust, which told them it had shipped the trophy directly to Texas A&M. Paul suspected the school misled him, using the second Heisman to double its fundraising and recruiting possibilities. Texas A&M, through a spokesman, appeared baffled at the accusation, and it's difficult to find the line between a lie and a simple miscommunication. (The Manziels received their Heisman in January.)
On how the school handles the NCAA's interest in Manziel's activities:
The Manziels don't understand why the school lets the NCAA probe their lives, starting with the assumption that they are cheating, as if an endless back and forth about a rich family spending money really addresses the most dangerous consequences of Johnny's fame [...] Johnny is in the wilderness of his own bad decisions right now. From the Manziels' perspective, everyone, from Sumlin to the school to the NCAA, seems to care deeply, even profoundly, about helping him through, just a little bit less than they care about helping themselves.
"It's starting to get under our skin," Paul says. "They're so selfish."
The Manziels are tired of a coach getting a million dollars and their son getting an appointment with a therapist. They're tired, and they're scared, because they've seen the pressure build and build, and they don't know what might happen next.
The family and university have previously had to work together to prevent "Johnny Football" merchandise from being sold by third parties.
The issues between the Manziel family and Texas A&M are not the central point of Thompson's piece, but they play a definite role in the larger problems that surround Manziel. This is a kid who was not prepared for the fame that would accompany his meteoric rise. A perfect relationship with the school wouldn't fix everything, but it's tough to see him remaining in College Station beyond the 2013 season if things don't change.