**Article was written before all the Manziel autograph saga came out but we still wanted to release.
Johnny Football: What does he do for an encore?
Eric Hyman’s nephew called fraud on his uncle.
Hyman, Texas A&M’s athletic director, brought over one of the first Johnny Manziel Heisman posters. The quarterback’s signature was included on the poster but — as noticed by the nephew — it was a printed facsimile.
“I had to get another poster and have Johnny sign it,” Hyman said. “Now, I’m his favorite uncle.”
They lurk everywhere, trying to get a piece of the athletic equivalent of Justin Bieber.
“From football player making headlines to being on TMZ to being a celebrity,” Manziel recalled of his whirlwind year.
Since Johnny Football broke national last year, there have been cease-and-desist letters aimed at those attempting to illegally profit from his accomplishments. A&M officials are familiar with trademark violations, and unlicensed Manziel products on the streets and the internet.
Just walking across campus has become a challenge, judging by his decision to take online classes. (Manziel said he would take some summer school classes in person.)
But on Dec. 8, the quarterback had one final exam left following his Heisman victory. He ended up posing for pictures with a professor and everyone in the department. It took him 30 minutes to get out of the economics building. A normal existence left the building shortly thereafter.
“I have to realize that’s not how life can be for me anymore,” Manziel said.
Lots has changed in College Station: The Big 12 is in the rear view mirror. Texas is down. A&M is up — way up. There was the first 11-win season in 14 years. There was that for-the-ages win at No. 1 Alabama.
A Heisman. No, not just a Heisman, a Heisman phenomenon.
A top five finish. A possible top-five beginning to 2013.
Out of Texas’ shadow, into the national conversation, and with three years’ eligibility left for its quarterback, what does A&M now do for an encore?
“We just got here,” Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin said.
That’s the scary part. Things can get better.
“The thing about this offense is in Year One it’s kind of experimenting, learning about it,” said offensive coordinator Jake Spavital. “Year Two is normally when they go off in the passing aspect.”
That was quite an experiment in 2012. Manziel set the SEC total offense record.
“Now, he’s handing me the keys to the Cadillac,” Spavital said of former coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, now the
Texas Tech head coach. “Johnny’s going to be a better passer (this season).”
A year ago at this time, the program was two games over .500 since 2007 and didn’t have a starting quarterback. Johnny Football “went from athlete who was playing quarterback to being
a quarterback who was an athlete,” Sumlin said.
His Twitter following grew from 3,000 to 300,000. Those Twitterati practically had kittens in the offseason when Manziel was shown in a TV feature driving away from the football facility in
a Mercedes C 63 AMG.
His second one, actually. His first Mercedes, a high school graduation gift, was hit in the football facility parking lot. Dad, John Paul, works at a car dealership.
“It’s a touchy area,” Manziel said. “It’s another gray area with the stereotype, how a majority of guys in the NCAA come from families that aren’t like mine, that aren’t as fortunate as mine having money.”
In December at the Dallas airport, a “soldier” convinced Texas A&M’s quarterback that his platoon back in Iraq were big fans. It would mean a lot to them if Manziel would sign a stack of A&M helmet decals. “A mountain high worth of stuff,” Manziel said, who had an hour layover and wanted to be patriotic.
“Sure enough,” Manziel said. “My dad gets a text. They’re on eBay. Somebody took all those helmet stickers and slapped them on blank helmets.”
His heart melted one night in the Bright Football Complex parking lot after a study hall. There were two men sitting in a car with memorabilia all made out personally to individuals. All Johnny had to do was sign his name and make folks happy. Advisors already had told him that personalized autographs devalue the souvenir for resale so they couldn’t be cashing in … could they?
“What happened after I signed, they wiped the names off,” Manziel said.
Hello, again, autograph black market.
Hyman convened a Johnny Football summit in his office in the offseason. Hyman invited coaches, compliance, marketing, Manziel’s parents, The Franchise himself. They talked about everything from security at practice to academics. The AD consulted two-time Heisman winner Archie Griffin, and Mike Hill, Florida’s external relations guy who handled the Tebow situation.
Griffin related that the toughest thing about fame is “learning how to say no.”
“The meeting that Eric Hyman had wasn’t a get-after-you, tell-you-what-to-do meeting,” Sumlin said. “(It was) ‘We’re here for you. You don’t have to handle this on your own.’”
Hyman said that back in New York at the December ceremony, “What
I told his dad and mom at the Heisman is, ‘He’s no longer a freshman; he’s no longer a sophomore; he’s no longer a junior; no longer a senior. He’s a Heisman.’”
“From where he is today to where he was a few months ago, he’s learned how to handle situations.”
|QB||Johnny Manziel||6-1||200||So.||Texas A&M|
|OL||Jake Matthews||6-5||305||Sr.||Texas A&M|
|QB||Braxton Miller||6-2||210||Jr.||Ohio State|
|OL||Gabe Jackson||6-4||335||Sr.||Mississippi State|
|OL||James Hurst||6-7||305||Sr.||North Carolina|
|OL||Zack Martin||6-4||304||Sr.||Notre Dame|