In this Nov. 10, 2012 file photo, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) celebrates after a review proves an Aggie touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Johnny Football is practicing with Texas A&M. Whether he starts the season opener is another question.
Coach Kevin Sumlin on Monday said he would not speculate when asked if Johnny Manziel
will be his starter on Aug. 31 against Rice following an ESPN report
that the NCAA is investigating whether the Heisman Trophy winner was
paid for signing hundreds of autographs last January.
"There's a lot of people involved in that decision," Sumlin said without being specific.
was paid for his autograph on memorabilia, it could potentially violate
NCAA amateurism rules and put his eligibility in question a year after
his jaw-dropping performance on the field made him the first freshman to
win the Heisman as college football's top player. Speaking to the media
as the team began preseason practices in earnest, Sumlin said he
learned of the ESPN report Sunday.
For now, Manziel will lead the Aggies. But his coach is clearly thinking of backups, too.
"He'll get as many reps as he was going to get yesterday," Sumlin said of Manziel, before adding: "We've got to develop a backup quarterback no matter what."
The report is just the latest in a string of off-the-field distractions caused by Manziel.
He's made headlines for tweeting that he "can't wait to leave College
Station," despite having three years of eligibility remaining, he
allegedly overslept at a football camp run by the Manning family and was supposedly kicked out of a University of Texas fraternity party in the last couple of months.
20-year-old sophomore calmly answered questions after question at SEC
media days last month, acknowledging his eventful offseason and
indicating he needed to make better decisions because he's such a public
"I don't feel like I've done anything that's catastrophic," Manziel said then. "Of course, I've made my mistakes. It's time to grow up."
Last week, Manziel tweeted: "I ain't perfect, I ain't insane but I AM worth it...if there's one thing I am worth it."
The antics have overshadowed what is expected to be a banner year for Texas A&M. The Aggies are coming off an 11-2 record in their first season in the SEC after moving from the Big 12, a year highlighted by Manziel leading Texas A&M to an upset win at No. 1 Alabama. The rematch in College Station is Sept. 14.
instead of answering questions about his expectations for the season,
Sumlin was left to respond to question after question about Manziel.
been through different things," Sumlin said. "As a coach when those
things happen, it's not what happens to you, it's how you deal with it.
We've got a veteran staff that knows how to deal with different
Manziel's teammates seem unfazed by his recent trouble and said that nothing has changed the way they view their quarterback.
still has all leadership qualities he displayed last year, he's being
more vocal now, he's taking on more of the leadership responsibilities,"
running back Ben Malena said. "The off the field issues doesn't bother us not one bit when it comes to a team aspect."
While Sumlin is working through the Manziel
situation, he noted that a much more difficult task was talking to his
team about the recent death of defensive lineman Polo Manukainiu, who
was killed in a New Mexico car crash along with two others.
was not an easy topic," Sumlin said. "It's one of the hardest things a
coach has to deal with. In a way getting back together as a group and
getting back in the routine, going out on the field today, somehow that
might help. Because these guys share the same kind of emotions the same
kind of feelings for a guy that they cared very, very deeply about."
also said starting defensive tackle Kirby Ennis, who was arrested in
February on a weapons charge, will be suspended for the Rice game.
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