Johnny Manziel, the redshirt freshman sensation suiting up for the Texas A&M Aggies in the program’s first season in the SEC, was not even the team’s starter until just before their first game of the season.
After collecting the signature win of the college football season thus far, taking down the previously invincible Alabama Crimson Tide on the road, the organically growing legend of Johnny Football exploded into the national spotlight.
With instant marketability but amateur status, the family of A&M’s Manziel began working with the school’s administration to try to figure out a way to keep the rights to trademark the nickname, without compromising Johnny Football’s collegiate eligibility.
What was supposed to have taken time and thought was instead rushed by the actions of Kenneth R. Reynolds Family Investments, a College Station-based firm that filed for the trademark rights to the moniker, without the consent of the school or family.
When asked exactly what the school was intending to do with the trademark rights to the name, since any selling of merchandise by the family will result in Manziel losing his eligibility, A&M vice president of marketing and communications, Jason Cook, made it clear that he does not want his football program to lose Johnny Football, before his eligibility runs its natural course, and he does not want to see other profit illegally from the hard work of a 19-year old student-athlete.
For starters, Cook brought up a case of ‘Johnny Football’ action figures that popped up on eBay following the Alabama victory.
“The initial version had Manziel in an all-white Texas A&M uniform, like we wore for the first time against Alabama,” Cook said by e-mail. “We sent (the manufacturer) a cease-and-desist letter. And the following day additional versions were posted with Manziel in maroon and black Texas A&M uniforms.”
More to the point, of course, is the threat of a loss of eligibility.
“I consider this to be the price of success, although we could have never projected or prepared for what we are experiencing this season,” Cook wrote. “Texas A&M has grown into a top-10 team in the nation’s best conference, and we are fortunate to have a marquee player who is a freshman and part of the Heisman discussion.
“Our No. 1 goal is to protect Manziel – his eligibility as a student-athlete and from people seeking to profit from his image and likeness. We are working hand-in-hand with his family, along with our licensing, compliance and legal teams, to ensure that all interests are protected now and into the future.”
Now that the name has been trademarked by the school, there are going to be a lot of cease-and-desist letters between this season and when Johnny Football can finally sign a professional contract.
Until then, Manziel is going to make a serious run at become the nation’s first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy.
Quotes from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch were used in this report.