VERO BEACH, FLORIDA – Up front, I admit it: MAS has a huge man-crush on “Johnny Football.”
That, of course, would be Johnny Manziel, the sensational Texas A&M quarterback who last season became the first freshman ever to win the Heisman Trophy.
MAS likes and envies everything about Manziel — his talent, charismatic personality and genuineness.
Johnny’s scintillating scampers away from danger ending in either a touchdown on foot or via one of his aerial bullets are truly amazing.
Though not the possessor of Brad Pitt-good looks, there’s something about Manziel’s big smile that lights up every room he walks into and attracts you to him.
Couple that with Johnny’s smooth bearing and you find yourself saying, “Man, that kid possesses the undefinable ‘IT’ factor.”
But MAS is not the only one smitten. The last sports guy I can think of who has fascinated America the way Manziel has was “Broadway Joe” Namath.
Now THAT’S some charisma company to be in!
Yet, through it all, with Manziel a sincere humility finds its way through.
Unlike a lot of phony jocks who are great at being personable when the TV camera’s red light comes on but are stuck-up or SOBs once it goes out, you sense that what you see in Manziel is what you really get with this guy.
OK, now that MAS is through gushing over Johnny Football, here’s my point: because I like and admire him so much, I’m REALLY worried about him, too.
If he’s not careful, Manziel could possibly veer off the tracks of football greatness AND human goodness — it’s happened before.
MAS frets because of some less-than-desirable situations that have developed since Manziel captured the Heisman.
First, Johnny’s popularity become so overwhelming that he had to cease attending classes at A&M in person.
He was forced to take all his courses online. Manziel is, thus, an absentee Big Man On Campus.
And when Johnny does venture out socially, he is accompanied by bodyguards hired by his parents — to protect him from both his admirers AND jealous haters (like the jerks who keyed his car and the moron that threw a can of beer at Manziel at a frat party).
When the hero worship and animosity reaches this insane point for a 20-year old student-athlete, it’s alarming.
Isolation and lack of normalcy as a student could be downright dangerous to Johnny’s social and psychological development.
Next MAS Manziel worry: that Johnny might be enjoying — and publicizing — his personal life a bit too much for his own good.
Even Johnny, in retrospect, admits this is a possibility.
Manziel has to be separated from the masses scholastically, so he interacts with them socially from afar by Twitter.
Like a king addressing his minions from a castle balcony on high, Johnny constantly tweets out messages on — and photos of — his myriad doings, like hitting parties, bars, casinos and various events as well as hobnobbing with other famous personalities like LeBron James and rapper Drake.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying college life to its fullest (which Johnny stated he intends to do) and indulging in the perks of fame — as long as you don’t get carried away.
When you’re as busy enjoying the social whirl and celeb circuit as Manziel appears to be, there’s always the danger of overdoing such activities and diverting focus away from your primary responsibilities: one’s studies and the tremendous amount of preparation required of a big-time college QB.
MAS worries that this combination of situations may be affecting Johnny’s maturational process — both as a person and a player.
There have been recent warning signs.
First, there was the Manning Passing Academy fiasco. Manziel was sent home from the quarterback camp for rumored “excessive partying.”
Johnny contends he overslept for a meeting (he was seen drinking in a bar the night before).
And in spring practice, Johnny reportedly shoved a graduate assistant coach who commented on several interceptions thrown by Manziel.
Finally, last week something potentially more serious came along: stories of an NCAA investigation into Manziel being paid for signing autographs (even as the NCAA hypocritically sold his jersey online).
Granted, Johnny must endure extraordinary scrutiny and innuendo. But incidents like this lead MAS to wonder if character issues are developing and whether Manziel is taking his talents for granted and not developing them as fully as he might.
Meanwhile, the human crush will only get worse — an obscene 1,200 credentials were issued for Texas A&M’s 2013 football media day.
MAS guarantees 1,199 of them went to folks clamoring for face time with Manziel to give the Johnny Football addicts their informational fixes.
The university has even hired a public relations expert to help teach Manziel how to ride out the media storm.
This is both good and bad.
It helps Johnny to understand the media interaction process and how to avoid pitfalls while engaged in it.
But it also might turn Manziel into a Bull Durham cliche-spewing robot. That would deny the public the delightful spontaneity Johnny has often provided.
Now, Johnny Manziel certainly doesn’t need MAS playing mother hen for him.
He seems to have a stable, loving family and caring coaches to lean on — or take advice from, if necessary.
And, by now, he has done and seen so much that he is probably wise beyond his years.
Hopefully, possessing that advanced wisdom, a trustworthy support group and his innate “IT” will enable Manziel to successfully navigate any choppy waters, present or future, he encounters in his young life.
Johnny Football, don’t go changin’ — MAS loves you just the way you WERE.
Contact Man About Sports at: firstname.lastname@example.org