Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston won the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night. Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, last year’s winner, finished fifth in the voting and seemed to enjoy playing the role of supporting actor to Winston’s leading man.
Manziel was the first freshman to win the Heisman, and it helped turn him into one of the biggest celebrities in sports. Not all the attention he got after winning the award was good.
Winston is now the second freshman to win the Heisman.
In many ways, Manziel has been where Winston is headed.
“Life’s going to change,” Manziel said. “This is an extremely big deal.”
Manziel basked in the spotlight after winning the Heisman and decided to live loud and large. His road trips made headlines. His tweets were analyzed. He got tossed from a frat party and overslept a meeting at the Manning Passing Academy. Trouble came when the NCAA looked into whether he signed autographs for money. He got off with a half-game suspension.
“There’s a lot of scrutiny if you don’t walk a fine line,” he said. “I was a little bit uncharacteristic, a little bit out of the box, and I caught some flak for it.”
Manziel’s missteps seem quaint considering the allegations that Winston was facing.
Last month, a year-old sexual assault complaint against him became public, and the Tallahassee Police gave the dormant case to the state attorney’s office for a full investigation.
A female Florida State student claimed Winston raped her. Winston’s lawyer said the sex was consensual. The state attorney determined there was not enough evidence to charge Winston.
Manziel said he was impressed with the way Winston handled his business on the field while dealing with problems away from it.
“I feel like he’s done a tremendous job of focusing on his team and on his family and what matters most,” Manziel said.
Manziel, a third-year junior, can declare for the NFL draft after this season. What could be his last game will be New Year’s Eve against Duke in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. In his Heisman follow-up season, Manziel’s passing stats improved as he stayed in the pocket more often. Both his completion percentage (69.1) and yards per attempts (9.5) went up.
If he does go pro — and it’d be an upset if he didn’t — he’ll again be the center of attention as one of the most scrutinized players in the draft.
The college game will belong to Winston, and Manziel said he should embrace his newfound fame.
“Live it up. Enjoy it,” Manziel said. “Continue to be yourself and don’t let anybody change from that. You’re going to have to adapt to how life is going to be after this.
“Stay focused. Stay true to yourself and continue to be the person that you are.”