Johnny Manziel Is a Bigger Story Than the All-Star Game

Videos by OutKick

If you wanted a moment to crystallize the ascension of college football as our nation’s second most popular sport — Johnny Manziel’s SEC media days appearance this morning is a perfect illustration of that rise. On the morning after the Major League Baseball All-Star game, Manziel, the 20 year old sophomore quarterback of Texas A&M, appeared live on ESPN’s Sportscenter to address his Manning Passing Academy departure and his offseason. 

ESPN promoted the interview for nearly twenty-four hours. The SportsCenter exclusive, carried live across the nation, came before Manziel’s first scheduled appearance before the SEC Media Days throngs at 8:30 in the morning. 

This was the latest culmination of the SEC’s rise from regional conference to national behemoth — why a quarterback left an offseason football camp early is the biggest story in a sporting-mad country. 

This was Johnny Manziel, a second year college quarterback, already more famous and recognizable than ten or twelve of the starting quarterbacks in the NFL sitting down to talk to the nation. 

Here was ESPN anchor Joe Tessitore’s “Frost v. Nixon” moment.

Tessitore did not disappoint. He completely and totally grilled Manziel on what happened at the Manning Passing Academy and also about his offseason. At no point did Tessitore smile or acknowledge the latent absurdity of the story.

No this wasn’t Egypt.

This wasn’t a bombing in Afghanistan.

This was… a college kid saying that he overslept and missed a meeting. 

Oh, the humanity.

If Tessitore had gotten eight minutes with George W. Bush, we might have managed to avoid the entire Iraq war.  

You can watch the interview here.

We can debate whether or not the story deserved this measure of attention, but what we can’t debate is that people care. The rise of the SEC means that the top SEC players are some of the most famous athletes in America. Even if they’re still unable to legally buy a beer, what they do on and off the field is big news, tiny morsels of food for a media and public that constantly demand more. More stories, more instantaneous, more analysis, more entertainment. 

More, more, more.

And all delivered immediately.  

By tomorrow ESPN, which is flying Manziel out to Los Angeles for the ESPY awards, will be debating whether or not Johnny Manziel is getting too much media attention.

Seriously, this will happen.


Because Manziel’s a rockstar celebrity who drives ratings. 

Love him or hate him, you care about Manziel. When I asked him about this scrutiny and the Twitter hate, Manziel said, “You gotta be doing something right for people to hate you like that.”

As I wrote Monday, he’s the most scutinized college athlete ever, Tim Tebow with the poon-chasing gene

Manziel’s insistence that he overslept is the fourth different explanation that’s been proferred for why he left the football camp in the past four days. First, we had a report that Manziel was hungover and missed Saturday practices leading to his camp dismissal, then the Manning Passing Academy released a statement saying that Johnny was ill. Finally Manziel’s own dad said that Johnny was home resting and suffering from dehydration.

All of these are different reasons. 

Now Manziel’s offered a fourth justification — he overslept because his phone died.  Oh, and that his roommate at the Manning camp, AJ McCarron, didn’t wake him up. And no one else did either. In fact, no one bothered to knock on his door when he didn’t show up on time, none of that happened.

Doesn’t that seem pretty unlikely, that if the Heisman Trophy winner was late for a meeting you wouldn’t send someone to grab him from bed? And doesn’t it also seem unlikely that there would be four different explanations offered over four different days for why Johnny Football left the camp?

I’m not a professional detective, but with all these differing explanations isn’t the real story here pretty obvious?

Manziel hooked up with a girl he met out Friday night, went back to her place instead of to his room, his phone died there — how often does your phone die when you’re where you expect to be sleeping? — and he showed up late on Saturday. Archie Manning, tired of Manziel’s showing up late for meetings, went ahead and sent him home. Manziel’s avoided telling the truth about what really happened because he has a hot girlfriend and he doesn’t want her to find out. Plus, it’s kind of awkward to talk about your sex life on national television. 

Although, can you imagine the drop the mic moment if this morning Manziel had said live on SportsCenter, “Yeah, I was hooking up with a girl I met out at the bar and she wanted to hook up again the next morning and I couldn’t say no, Joe.”

What would Tessitore’s next question have been? What about his facial expression?

This would have been priceless television. 

Then I could have followed up by asking Manziel whether he preferred blondes, brunettes or redheads and Manziel could have answered, “Hopefully all three, at the same time.”

And we would have had the greatest quote in the history of SEC Media Days. 

But that didn’t happen. 

Instead ever since the dismissal broke everyone has done their best to respond to the story without throwing Manziel under the hook-up bus. The result? Four different explanations, all dodging the real reason. So I’m giving you the fifth reason, and, be honest, isn’t it the only real explanation that makes sense here?

And it also makes all the attention even more ridiculous.

And kind of hysterical. 

What we’ve got here is a garden variety college hook up that has turned into the college sports version of Watergate because Manziel is the most scrutinized college athlete ever. What did he know and when did he know it? I”m halfway expecting for Manziel to leave for the ESPYs after flashing the peace sign on the steps of his airplane. 

Four years ago Tim Tebow came to SEC media days and said he didn’t believe in premarital sex, four years later Manziel shows up at media days and pulls a Bill Clinton, dodging admitting to a hook up that threatens to cost him millions of dollars in NFL draft impact.  

I mean, that’s gotta be it, right?

This happens everywhere for twenty year old girls and guys on summer break.

Except usually the story is contained to three or four people and doesn’t get broken apart by over 1,000 media. 

Right now Manziel is probably texting AJ McCarron to get the story straight on why McCarron didn’t wake up Manziel. Because you know McCarron will get asked about it at media days tomorrow. My bet on their excuse? McCarron’s day started earlier than Manziel’s and he figured Johnny would wake up on his own. Get ready for that answer from McCarron. Because it’s coming. 

When you dive into the four different stories here, discovering what really happened isn’t that complicated. 

Manziel’s the anti-Tebow, a lot more like what most of us would have been like if we’d won the Heisman our second year in college. And his star is burning so brightly that why he left the Manning football camp is a bigger story than the Major League All Star Game.

It’s wild, but it’s just another chapter in the Johnny Football Experience.  

At Notre Dame they have pretend girlfriends, in the SEC the quarterbacks pretend they didn’t hook up with other girls. 

Advantage, SEC. 

Written by Clay Travis

Clay Travis is the founder of the fastest growing national multimedia platform, OutKick, that produces and distributes engaging content across sports and pop culture to millions of fans across the country. OutKick was created by Travis in 2011 and sold to the Fox Corporation in 2021.

One of the most electrifying and outspoken personalities in the industry, Travis hosts OutKick The Show where he provides his unfiltered opinion on the most compelling headlines throughout sports, culture, and politics. He also makes regular appearances on FOX News Media as a contributor providing analysis on a variety of subjects ranging from sports news to the cultural landscape. Throughout the college football season, Travis is on Big Noon Kickoff for Fox Sports breaking down the game and the latest storylines.

Additionally, Travis serves as a co-host of The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, a three-hour conservative radio talk program syndicated across Premiere Networks radio stations nationwide.

Previously, he launched OutKick The Coverage on Fox Sports Radio that included interviews and listener interactions and was on Fox Sports Bet for four years. Additionally, Travis started an iHeartRadio Original Podcast called Wins & Losses that featured in-depth conversations with the biggest names in sports.

Travis is a graduate of George Washington University as well as Vanderbilt Law School. Based in Nashville, he is the author of Dixieland Delight, On Rocky Top, and Republicans Buy Sneakers Too.