From the Bench Column

Manziel has something to prove

By Chad Upton | Aug 28, 2013
Photo by: File Chad Upton

Jonathan Paul Manziel, also known by his nickname, Johnny Football, is, for some, the most easily recognized name in college football.
He was nationally recruited out of high school as a dual-threat quarterback and in 2012, Manziel debuted for Texas A&M as a redshirt freshman. From there, he broke numerous NCAA and SEC records, which include becoming the first freshman and fifth player in NCAA history to pass for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in a season.
At the end of the regular season, he became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, Manning Award and the Davey O’Brien Award. It looked all good as he led the Aggies to a Cotton Bowl win in January.
But when the decision was made to trademark the moniker “Johnny Football,” well, it has been all down hill from there.
Don’t misunderstand. There was some writing on the wall even before Manziel took the field.  In 2012 and before his first starting season, Manziel was arrested and charged with three misdemeanors — disorderly conduct, failure to identify and possession of a fictitious driver’s license.  
Police reports state that Manziel was with a friend who directed a racial slur at a man on the street. The man then approached the two of them trying to get at the friend, but Manziel placed himself between the two men saying his friend didn’t mean it and he was going to take him home. The man continued pushing against Manziel to reach the other, and eventually Manziel pushed back.
At this point, the man swung at Manziel, who then began fighting back. Manziel, who at the time was 19, presented a fake Louisiana driver’s license to police officers showing himself to be 21.
Manziel was taken into custody and reportedly spent the night in jail.  None of that was fantastic, but it wasn’t the type of thing to destroy someone’s life either.  But if he had been on my team, it certainly would have drawn my attention to behaviors that needed correcting.  
Now, after missing an early meeting and instruction while an instructor at a Manning Passing Academy event, after allegedly being out late in local bars the night before, things really started to unwind.  After being “kicked out” of a fraternity party at rival Texas, and potentially being involved in a NCAA policy violating autograph signing business, things are much worse.  
Manziel, it would seem, is looking at not playing at all during the 2013 season.  If the NCAA does get involved the way reports say that it will, Johnny Football could be looking at a complete missed season or more, hurting not just himself, but the team and fans that he is part of supporting.  
And that is the potential tragedy here.
First, lets step back a moment. I mentioned that the trade marking of “Johnny Football” might be a mistake.  I can’t totally dismiss registering the trademark to protect future interests.  No one, certainly, wants to be taken advantage of financially or otherwise.  
What you do need, especially with someone as young and inexperienced as this, is full guidance on what is going on around, with the potential pitfalls.  
I have often said that the reason so many that become famous for the games and sports they play, or the music they make, or the movies they act in have trouble is because they lack people in their lives to tell them “no.”
As a child, I was often told “No! You can’t have 14 Oreos before lunch.”
“No! You can’t have that toy so close to Christmas.”
No! You can’t have a brand new car on your 16th birthday.”
That’s tough to hear when your young … you don’t really understand why. The truth though is that having boundaries in life keeps us grounded in reality and morality.  Those that are apologizing for Manziel may have a point. He is a kid that got caught up too quick.  
My question is a simple one though. Where are  mom and dad, head coach, athetic director and those that love this young man while he was making and executing these decisions after a pattern began to develop?
At the end of it all, there is still hope, but those that have real vested interest must step up and do their part for the team and perhaps a very talented young man’s life before it gets too far out of hand.
I am a flawed man, no question, but hearing that “no” once in while pays off to this day. I’d like to think, even for us as adults, we can all attest to that.