Johnny Manziel placed his name at the top of the Heisman Trophy candidates’ list last November after leading his Texas A&M team to a 29-24 road upset of then defending national champion Alabama.
Want to hear him talk about this Saturday’s rematch? You know, it’s the game that pits the now two-time defending national champion Crimson Tide against the sixth-ranked Aggies at Kyle Field. The game is so big that two television networks are setting up studios near the stadium and are going live before and after the game, while scalping websites are selling tickets for an average of $835 apiece.
Yet despite all the attention being heaped upon him, Manziel’s not talking.
He was unavailable for comment at Tuesday’s weekly A&M media availability, as he’s been for much of his career. Manziel did make a brief appearance last Saturday night in the Aggies’ postgame news conference, when he discussed his performance against Sam Houston State while describing the Alabama contest as just another game.
This time, it wasn’t coach Kevin Sumlin or the A&M administration, who have sheltered Manziel from reporters since early August, making the call to keep the quarterback silent. The decision was made at Manziel’s request.
“Quite frankly, he and his family and his advisers, his lawyers and family have advised him not to talk, and I’ll respect his wishes for that,” Sumlin said. “There will be a time when he’ll be able to speak to the media. In that sense, I’m going to respect his request not to speak to the media at this time.”
CBS, which will televise the game nationally, has plans to devote one camera — dubbed “Johnny Cam” — to capture every Manziel move, be they controversial, like the unsportsmanlike conduct he was flagged for in the season opener, or more mundane. Sumlin was informed of the plan Tuesday about an hour before he conducted his weekly news conference.
He’s against Johnny Cam.
“I just don’t understand why there has got to be one guy singled out and put a camera on all the time,” Sumlin said. “That’s not what we’re about. That’s not what we’re trying to promote, and certainly from my standpoint, all the criticism about individuals on the football team, I don’t think this helps enhance the team concept.”
Meanwhile, over in Alabama, fans can check out a likeness of Manziel at a Birmingham sports bar. It’s known as “Johnny Piñata.” Fans can take a whack at the Aggies quarterback for a chance to win a gift card. The piñata, which sports a maroon No. 2 jersey, has a Sharpie in one hand and a wad of fake money in the other. The jersey also is decorated with a dollar sign.
But while Manziel remains mum, there will be other Heisman contenders hitting town to compete for college football’s biggest award on the sport’s grandest stage, at least for a game in mid-September. They’ve all been allowed to talk to reporters.
Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron leads the Crimson Tide, as he’s done in the past two national championships. He had a mediocre season premiere, completing only 10 of 23 passes for 110 yards against Virginia Tech. McCarron threw for 309 yards against the Aggies last November but had two costly interceptions.
Sophomore running back T.J. Yeldon rushed for 1,108 yards a year ago, setting an Alabama freshman record. Plus, receiver Amari Cooper turned heads with a 105-yard outing in the national championship win over Notre Dame.
The hottest player is dynamic receiver and return specialist Christion Jones, who scored three touchdowns against Virginia Tech. His 256 all-purpose yards included 92 on a kick return and 74 on a punt return, both for touchdowns.
Jones spoke to reporters immediately after his team’s opening victory. He said: “It’s just a game to me, to our guys. Whether it’s about Johnny Manziel or not, we’re just going out here to play another game.”
6-TEXAS A&M VS. 1-ALABAMA
2:30 Saturday, CBS, 1370
COMPARING AGGIES, TIDE
How Texas A&M (2-0) and Alabama (1-0) stack up statistically heading into Saturday’s showdown:
Beat Va. Tech 35-10;Game 1;Beat Rice 52-31
—;Game 2;Beat Sam Hou. St. 65-28
153.0;Rush yds. all.;273.0
59.0;Pass yds. all.;176.5