HOOVER, Ala. -- Grading Johnny Manziel on his Southeastern Conference Media Days appearance on Wednesday:
The Candor: B
Although he clearly had a handful of answers prepared, Johnny Football didn't dodge a single question throughout the day. The Texas A&M star quarterback took questions ranging from his early departure from the Manning Passing Academy over the weekend, to his controversial tweeting this summer, to his whirlwind travel schedule. With a few easy questions about the Aggies football mixed in, Manziel came across as honest, at times apologetic, and even a bit naive. If it was all an act, it was Academy Award-worthy.
The Script: A
Players who come to SEC Media Days knowing they'll have to answer to a controversial topic typically have an answer rehearsed, if not coached. But having a script and sticking to the script are two very different challenges. In making a circuit through two rooms full of local television reporters, other private rooms designated for specific TV networks, an internet media room and finally a main ballroom facing dozens of print reporters, players often give the rehearsed answer a few times but ultimately crack with a very different answer after the same question has been re-phrased by different reporters over and over. Manziel never did that. "I've made mistakes. I'm 20 years old, I'm still learning, growing and maturing," was among his common refrains.
The Zingers: B-minus
It probably wouldn't have been a good idea for Manziel to be overly colorful in his comments Wednesday -- often, that can result in out-of-context interpretation, which would have been the last thing he and the A&M program needed. Still, Johnny Football is nothing if not interesting. Perhaps his best qoute, on the off-season scrutiny he faces in his day-to-day life: "I'm not in a Miss America pageant." ... When pressed on the details of his offseason travels, he spoke about attending the NBA Finals and meeting Miami Heat star LeBron James for the second time, spending time with recording artist Drake, and more. He described the experiences as "almost bucket list."
The Audibles: A
Like lawyers to a witness in court, sometimes reporters throw curveballs. When Manziel mentioned that friend and Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron was his roommate while at the MPA, he was immediately asked "Why didn't AJ wake you up?' Manziel's response was succinct and unassailable: "I don't know. It's my fault." ... In another such instance, Manziel was asked why he thinks he draws fire from social media users, and why a large portion of the college football fan base seemingly enjoys rooting against him. His response, in part: "Look at LeBron, one of the best players in his league, and (people) are just like that. You've got to be doing something right for people to hate you."
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The pitfalls: B
Manziel was asked if he thought the microscope he faces is "unfair." That's a tricky question, and if there were a media handbook for athletes, it would certainly suggest that unfair isn't a good word to ever use. Manziel said he thought the scrutiny was unfair, but he quickly recovered and, in the same sentence, noted that his own actions had brought about some of the spotlight he has come to face. "At the end of the day, I'm a 20-year-old kid in college, trying to live a normal life. I know that's not the case. But I'm trying to have fun and enjoy my life."