The Good Men Project has run coverage of Heisman-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel. But what about his father? Amid alleged rules violations and intense media scrutiny, what role should he play to help his son grow up fast?
December 8th, 2012 was a memorable night for Johnny Manziel. As a freshman, he became the first collegiate football player to win the Heisman Trophy, the sport’s greatest individual honor. The now sophomore Texas A&M quarterback, however, has had a summer he’d like to forget.
With the college football season upon us, no one has been more scrutinized than Manziel. Even casual fans looked forward to his second season with the Aggies, but pre-season headlines from SEC Media Days and ESPN The Magazine, and posts here at The Good Men Project (see here and here), served as an appetizer to the entrée that Manziel might have been paid for his autograph, a violation of NCAA rules that could jeopardize his eligibility.
He might now be 20, but his life today is light-years beyond his 19th birthday.
From story to story, more is written and understood about Manziel’s personal life. He grew up in an oil-rich family from Tyler, TX where little was left to want due to a fortune inherited from his great-grandfather. Evidence of this is shown clearly in an ESPN piece from spring practice as Manziel drove away at one point in a black Mercedes. His dad, Paul, allegedly bought it for him because Manziel stayed away from alcohol and drugs his junior and senior years of high school.
All of this begins to beg this question, though: What role does Johnny Manziel’s dad play in all of this? If you were Paul Manziel, what would you do? What role do you play in making sure the university has your son’s best interest at heart? What role do you play in making sure your son stays out of trouble? What role do you play in helping him navigate his sudden fame?
His dad finds himself in an interesting position.
One the one hand, he has handed off his son, an adult at 20, to Texas A&M. Coaches, counselors, administration, etc. are charged with helping boys become men across the entire university, including sports. So, in that respect, Manziel is no different. Part of choosing a university for your child is the environment in which they’ll grow and develop, in this case as a person and a player.
On the other hand, Paul Manziel is Johnny’s father. Once a parent, always a parent. He can’t leave it to someone else to raise his son. He has to trust that the things that he taught his son as he was growing up are lessons that will enable him to deal with and work through challenges he faces today. A parent’s work is never done. So he must continually teach and coach his son to enable him to be the best version of himself.
Paul Manziel and his family now have their own press to deal with, too. The NY Times wrote a piece at the end of 2012 called “Johnny Football: Raising a Heisman Contender,” and the fact that their College Station house just went on the market has folks assuming that this is the last year for Johnny at Texas A&M. In addition, there’s talk of possible lawsuits with the NCAA given the age requirement in the NFL rulebook that Manziel doesn’t currently meet.
It’s a tough spot to be in, for sure. Money, fame, and fortune are certainly envied, but the degree to which those things cause media scrutiny and no private life can’t be overlooked. The entire Manziel family is doing what it can to help their son.
But—is it what you would do?
Photo: AP/Henny Ray Abrams