- Pat McManamon, ESPN Staff Writer
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BEREA, Ohio -- The full dichotomy that is Johnny Manziel was on display Friday.
Wearing a suit, tie, Browns pin and hat as he spoke in the Cleveland Browns' media room, Manziel portrayed himself as the low guy on the team’s totem pole. He also said he just happens to have some famous friends.
He said he’s really just Johnny Manziel from Tyler, Texas, but shrugged off spending time with celebrities and being chased by paparazzi.
He talked of being humbled by being drafted, but was caught on TMZ partying the night away in New York City after his selection with Drake, Busta Rhymes, Meek Mill and Kyrie Irving. The party, TMZ reported, went until 5 a.m., which allowed Manziel a brief bit of sleep before flying to Cleveland.
“Well,” he said of being photographed at a private room at Avenue with a bevy of beauties and a bottle of champagne, “I am 21 years old.”
But the fact remains: The guy who talked about leaving Johnny Football behind was living the high life until 5 a.m. Can’t begrudge him a celebration, but the old saying about having it both ways does come to mind.
“Johnny Football is what I am in the media and what is out there,” Manziel said. “I accept it, and at the same time I know who I am. I’m Johnny Manziel from Kerrville, Texas.
“I don’t let that [Johnny Football persona] get to me too much or let that weigh me down or lose sleep at night.”
Insert crack here about not losing any sleep over it on draft night.
“I don’t look at it as celebrity or star or anything like that,” he said. “I look at it as guys that really care about me or friends that happen to be in a bigger spotlight.”
The truth of the matter is that Manziel’s Texas A&M teammates did like him, and he loved his teammates. Manziel has been able to be a celebrity at night and a teammate during the day.
But he’s not in College Station anymore, Toto.
And while some can enjoy the party scene and succeed, others have partied themselves out of the league. Manziel has challenges ahead of him he has not faced, challenges that include NFL speed, teams and defenders (Haloti Ngata, Geno Atkins and the entire Steelers defense come to mind). Challenges that include learning a new team, city and system. Not to mention that he might not have Josh Gordon available during his rookie season. Challenges that are far greater than those he’s seen on the field before.
In that regard, Manziel was wise to advertise himself as the lowest guy on the totem pole. Heck, he wasn’t even the Browns' first first-round pick.
In the old NFL Manziel’s act might not go over with veterans; they’d want production before fame. In the modern era, though, players seem to accept the celebrity status that goes with stardom -- even if stardom hasn’t yet been achieved at the highest level.
Manziel was an excellent college quarterback, as more than 7,800 yards and 63 touchdowns show. The NFL is a new start, but being portrayed on a celebrity-chasing website with a magnum of champagne seemed to faze him not one bit.
“For me it was a time to celebrate,” he said. “A lifelong dream of mine had been fulfilled and to go out with my family and spend time with them ... [we’ve] come so far since Tyler, Texas, and the days in Kerrville. It’s been a long ride and we’ve worked really hard to get here. So to go out and do that with my family and friends and people who have been along on this ride with me for so long, I feel like it was very warranted and there wasn’t a thing wrong with it in my eyes.”
In the same 30 minutes, Manziel also addressed using social media in a more healthy and helpful way.
Perhaps there is no dichotomy. Perhaps Manziel is that rare guy who can combine the expensive private parties and Vegas lifestyle with the excellence at his craft. Like someone named LeBron.
The Browns brought in the guy they hope is the good teammate and better football player. If that works out, they’ll treat TMZ the same way Manziel does.