- Alex Scarborough, ESPN Staff Writer
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HOOVER, Ala. -- Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel has admittedly thrown himself into the fire of national criticism for his off-the-field actions in the past, and Wednesday at SEC media days he got to tell his side of the story in his first public comments since his much-talked-about early departure this past weekend from the Manning Passing Academy.
The Heisman Trophy-winning signal-caller was calm and collected in front of cameras, saying the only reason he left camp was he slept in late and missed a meeting -- nothing more, nothing less.
"It's been a busy summer for me," said Manziel, who called it a mutual decision between himself and officials at the camp. "I probably bit off more than I can chew in July, been traveling, been going a lot of places. I just overslept. I made a mistake and didn't wake up in time when I should have.
"That's pretty much the end of that."
Manziel said he was a college kid and going to do what normal college kids do despite his status as the first freshman to win the Heisman.
"I'm still going to live my life to the fullest," Manziel said.
Manziel, who spoke further with other media at the Wynfrey Hotel as part of the SEC's unofficial annual preseason-kickoff event, was reported by some websites to have been sent home by Archie Manning from the passing camp for "partying." But camp officials were adamant that those reports were inaccurate when speaking later to ESPN's Chris Mortensen.
Manziel, for his part, said he was disappointed to leave the camp early and insisted his departure had nothing to do with alcohol or the previous night.
"There's a lot of rumors out there, a lot of talk," Manziel said. "I've been very eager to get a chance to share my side of the story. I missed a meeting. It wasn't anything due to the night prior. … It was just simply my phone died, I overslept, I woke up the next morning whenever I did, went and talked to them and it was kind of a mutual decision to get home and get some time to relax."
Manziel's offseason had previously included a whirlwind of several high-profile destinations and events.
"It's been lots of fun," he told the media gathering. "I continue to meet people and do things that were on the bucket list. I got to go to Toronto, got to meet LeBron (James) for the second time and have more of a conversation. I got to go to Finals games. And I'm thankful my parents could go to those places -- and I got to go to these camps and work with kids, the Elite 11 and the Manning Camp."
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning told ESPN that he remembered a young Eli Manning missing a meeting at the camp and catching grief for it. Peyton, a 14-year NFL veteran, downplayed the event, saying, "We always have counselors who leave early," and praised Manziel for his work with the campers while inviting him back next year.
Manziel said he spoke to his coach, Kevin Sumlin, recently, apologizing for the negative light he put on his program.
"I told him I felt like the deal really got blown out of proportion, and I'm sorry for that, for the way it was spun and the way it was taken out of context," he said. "I never meant to make A&M look bad, or especially him. Me and Coach Sumlin have such a special relationship, and I never would have wanted to upset him."
Sumlin, speaking separately to the media earlier in the morning, said he and Manziel have discussions "all the time about things."
"I think he has done some things that he's not very proud of, has made some poor decisions," Sumlin said. "He's made some good decisions. Unfortunately, the poor decisions are the ones that are really publicized. It's a growing process. It's a learning process. But to answer your question, can he be better in that area? Certainly. That's something that we're working at."
The 20-year-old redshirt sophomore has been no stranger to headlines this offseason. He has been in the news for controversial comments on social media, agreeing to a plea deal on misdemeanor charges of failure to properly identify himself to College Station police and reportedly shoving a graduate assistant coach at a spring game in which he threw multiple interceptions.
Manziel told "SportsCenter" he feels he's held to a higher standard than most players his age. At this time last year, he was unknown in most circles outside of Texas A&M, a sprite young quarterback battling Jameill Showers to become the Aggies' starter under center. Now, Showers is at UTEP while Manziel is a Heisman Trophy winner with a potential future in the NFL.
"I feel like I am on a little bit higher pedestal than most people in college football," Manziel said. "But at the same time, I'm still 20 years old, I'm still a sophomore in college, I'm still going to do things that everyone in college does and continue to live my life. Hopefully people don't hold me to a higher standard than that."
Manziel, who is the centerpiece of the Aggies program this season under Sumlin, is a front-runner to claim the Heisman Trophy again this season. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound speedster from Kerrville, Texas, threw for 3,706 yards and rushed for 1,410 more, averaging 7.0 yards on the ground and 12.6 yards per completion last season.
He was the only quarterback in the country to finish in the top 25 in both passing and rushing while ending the season No. 1 in total offense with just shy of 400 yards per game and 47 touchdowns.
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