HOOVER, Ala. — Johnny Manziel strode into Southeastern Conference Media Days and was swarmed by hundreds of reporters and dozens of television cameras.
He shook some hands and the cameras flashed as he settled into his seat, the star of the SEC’s latest must-see TV show.
If the Texas A&M quarterback was troubled by all the attention, he didn’t show it.
Dressed in a dark blue suit, checkered shirt and striped tie, Manziel answered every question thrown his way during the 30-minute Q&A, some were even about football. He said he largely enjoys the spotlight that comes with winning the Heisman Trophy — even if it sometimes includes unsavory headlines.
“This is just another day,” Johnny Football said with a grin.
The 20-year-old sophomore and face of college football spent most of his three-hour stay at the Wynfrey Hotel, bouncing from one interview session to another. He mostly talked about an eventful offseason that has frequently made him a trending topic.
“I don’t feel like I’ve done anything that’s catastrophic,” Manziel said. “Of course, I’ve made my mistakes. It’s time to grow up.”
The most recent misstep came last weekend at the Manning Passing Academy. Manziel was one of many college quarterback counselors at the camp for high school prospects run by Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning in Louisiana, but he left before it was over.
He says he missed activities because he “overslept,” and his absence had nothing to do with being out the night before.
“I was not asked to leave. It was a mutual decision,” Manziel said.
He said that while there were social events every night with the Mannings, he did not miss his meetings because of too much partying.
“The speculation of me being too hung over and that’s the reason I missed the meetings is absolutely incorrect,” he said.
Manziel said he fell asleep without setting his alarm and his phone died during the night. He said he was rooming with Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, but that McCarron didn’t wake him up.
“I’m definitely not going to pin it on him,” Manziel said. “It’s my fault — 115, 120 percent.”
He said he was disappointed he missed camp activities, but that there were “no hard feelings” between him and the Mannings. He said he’s already been invited back to next summer’s camp and looks forward to attending.
The early exit from the Manning camp is just part of Manziel’s offseason in the public eye.
c He pleaded guilty on Monday to a misdemeanor of not identifying himself to a police officer following a 2012 altercation at a bar near campus in College Station.
c He sent out an update on Twitter in June saying that he “can’t wait to leave” College Station, before quickly deleting the updated. He later apologized.
c He also created a minor stir in February when he said he took most of his classes online and didn’t go on campus very much.
None of the transgressions were huge, but they combined to keep Johnny Football in the news and raise questions about his character.
Every move Manziel made on Wednesday was shadowed by a media throng. At one point, the quarterback said he felt like pop star Justin Bieber.
He talked about his friendship with NBA star LeBron James, his upcoming trip to the ESPYs and all the other positives that comes from his fame.
He said his carousing has been at times “blown out of proportion,” though he did acknowledge that he needs to make better decisions because he’s such a public figure.
“My offseason, all the stuff’s that’s gone on will have no effect on this season,” Manziel said. “I’m ready to stop. No more talk after this. Let’s play football.”
Manziel is the first freshman to win the Heisman and undeniably a unique talent on the field. He led Texas A&M to an 11-2 record, including a 6-2 mark in its first Southeastern Conference season.
Second-year coach Kevin Sumlin’s hurry-up offense was a perfect match for Manziel, who finished with 3,706 yards and 26 touchdowns passing and 1,410 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground.
His 5,116 total yards were an NCAA freshman record and No. 9 on the NCAA’s all-time list.
Sumlin and Texas A&M defensive back Toney Hurd Jr. both praised Manziel on Wednedsay.
“Johnny Football is a great guy,” Hurd Jr. said. “He works hard. He’s dedicated to his craft. I can’t make any predictions on what he’ll do, but I can tell you if you want to stop him, you might want to put 22 men on the field.
Said Sumlin: “I think (handling the Heisman spotlight is) a learning experience, a growing experience, because, quite frankly, it’s something that nobody’s ever been through at that age.”
Mississippi quarterback Bo Wallace was also at the Manning passing camp and said the other quarterbacks enjoyed their time with Manziel. Wallace said Tuesday Manziel is “a fun kid” and “may catch more slack than he should.”
“It’s difficult — you want to go out and do 20, 21-year-old things,” Wallace said. “But at the same time, you’ve got to know that you’re the face of a brand. Ole Miss is a huge brand, A&M’s a huge brand and you’ve got to have that in the back of your mind with every decision that you make.”