ESPN senior writer Wright Thompson recently published an expose on the Manziel family following the breathtaking rise of son Johnny from anonymous redshirt to Heisman Trophy winner and national lightning rod. Not only did Thompson broach issues such as Johnny Football’s stints in therapy amidst simply the sheer enormity of what he’s been dealing with, but he also tells the tale of a father’s worry for his son.
Johnny may be 6-foot-1 and more than 200 pounds. He may be able to sprint all over the field with the breathless bravery of a man even larger, but he is still just 20 years old. He is still a boy in a day and age when men and women around the world aren’t settling into careers until their 30s or willingly going back to school decades after wrapping up their Bachelor’s.
The way Paul Manziel sees things, Texas A&M has not had the best intentions in terms of handling his son’s meteoric rise to the top of the college football world.
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.)
Manziel was offered a scholarship to Texas, the school he and every other person in the state grew up worshipping. However, Longhorns coach Mack Brown only offered him a scholarship as a defensive back. Kevin Sumlin offered Manziel a full ride to play quarterback at College Station, and the young star out of Kerrville took it.
But now Manziel’s father believes Sumlin and the school have unfairly benefited from his son’s abilities under center.
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.
These same criticisms have reverberated throughout collegiate athletics for decades. Michigan’s Fab Five had to deal with it 20 years ago, just like Manziel is doing now. The NCAA and its member institutions are working to bring in as much money as possible, it’s just that simple.
As for the criticism of Sumlin, that is a little more of a surprise. Manziel went on record saying that Sumlin has been a huge help, especially after Sumlin lobbied the school to keep him from being suspended for an entire year following an arrest.
Thompson’s piece on the rise of a wealthy Texas kid to the toast of the college football universe – including all the twists, turns and extremely negative publicity in-between – is a fascinating read. We highly recommend you read it in its entirety here.