- Chris Low, ESPN Senior Staff Writer
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Johnny Manziel has always played football like he didn’t have a care in the world.
It’s one of the many things that makes him so good, so instinctive and so entertaining.
Hey, it works for him.
So as he embarks on life after the Heisman Trophy (both on and off the field), he’s not going to change a whole lot.
In fact, he’s going to endeavor to be himself more than ever going forward.
“It’s hard sometimes, but I’m at the point now that I don’t care what people say,” Manziel said. “Everybody’s watching, and I understand that. For me, the spotlight wasn’t there at all, and then just like that, it was everywhere I went. It took some getting used to, but it’s getting better.
“I’m not going to quit being me and quit doing all the things I love, but I check with a lot more people now before I do anything.”
In other words, Manziel rarely leaves campus without first checking in with Texas A&M’s compliance officials.
He’s also sought assistance on how to deal with the unrelenting requests for autographs and pictures. He’s taking online courses only this semester and won’t start back taking classes on campus until the summer session.
“No matter how badly you want to, you can’t make everybody happy,” Manziel said. “They brought in somebody to help me with that, learning how to say no, and yet, still be polite.”
There's been progress. Manziel said he and his roommate and best friend, Steven Brant, recently went to a restaurant to eat and walked in and walked out without much disturbance.
“Every day, it gets a little better,” said Manziel, who doesn't apologize for being one of those people who loves to have a good time.
On a college campus, how many people don't fall into that boat?
He’s become a celebrity among the celebrities. Rapper Drake tweeted at Manziel last week, and Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin joked that Manziel has LeBron James on speed dial.
Manziel has also become friends with several other high-profile college football players and is a huge fan of the game. He and Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron talked about hanging out together at spring break. But their breaks were one week different, and it didn’t work out.
Manziel has also developed a friendship with USC receiver Marqise Lee, and when it comes to watching college football, two of his favorites are Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota and Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd.
This week, with the Aggies having wrapped up spring practice, Manziel is going back home to Kerrville, Texas, for a ceremony to honor him.
“It’s the first time I’ve been back in a while, and it will be good to see everybody,” he said.
He’s fresh off throwing for 303 yards and three touchdowns in Texas A&M’s spring game last weekend. Granted, Manziel was going against the second-team defense, but he looked more polished in the pocket.
“I’m still going to be looking to make plays and still get positive yardage any way I can, but I want to play more within the system,” Manziel said. “I’ve honed in on my mechanics and honed in on the little things that make you a good quarterback.”
That said, don’t think for a minute that the streetball version of Johnny Football is going anywhere.
“I call it Michael Vick ball, and that’s always going to be a part of my game,” Manziel said.
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