Johnny Manziel bids for new phrase

Updated: April 4, 2014, 12:17 PM ET
By Darren Rovell | ESPN.com

Former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel continues to set himself up to cash in on his future. In line to eventually secure a "Johnny Football" trademark, Manziel's team filed for more trademarks recently, including "The House That Johnny Built."

But just like the trademark for "Johnny Football," Manziel is actually second in line, and the person who is first might raise eyebrows among Aggies fans.

Fitch Estate Sales, a company owned by the family of Nate Fitch, Manziel's friend who was with the quarterback at many of the autograph signings that resulted in a half-game suspension, was first to the phrase.

Fitch's mother, Rachel, declined to comment. Her attorney, Gerald Fowler, told ESPN.com that it was his understanding that Nate and Johnny were going to use the trademark together.

[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
Scott Halleran/Getty ImagesJohnny Manziel's team has another marketing phrase in the works.

"My guess is that there was a lack of communication here," Fowler said.

Fitch Estate Sales, which filed for the trademark in December, and Manziel, whose company filed a month later, both submitted applications to the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office that said they intended to use the phrase on athletic apparel. Manziel's filing was first reported Wednesday by TMZ.

If Fitch and Manziel were on the same page, one has to wonder why Manziel's team filed for the phrase on its own. Fowler said he hasn't had any conversations with Manziel's attorneys about pursuing the trademark together. Two of Manziel's attorneys did not return calls from ESPN seeking comment.

If Fitch doesn't have approval from Manziel, it might be tough for him to win the rights. A trademark that refers to a living individual often has to be approved by that person.

Lack of permission is what stopped Kenneth R. Reynolds Family Investments from being able to trademark "Johnny Football." The firm, based in College Station, Texas, filed for "Johnny Football" before Manziel did, but the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office ultimately said the firm needed the consent of Manziel, which it did not get. Last week, the firm agreed to assign its "Johnny Football" rights to Manziel, allowing Manziel's application -- which had been suspended on Dec. 31 -- to proceed.

Fowler said the trademark, an obvious play on the famous Babe Ruth/Yankee Stadium phrase, was a reference to the renovation of Texas A&M's Kyle Field, a $450 million project that will expand capacity to 102,500 and is scheduled to be completed in time for the 2015 season. A Texas A&M official did not immediately return a call seeking comment as to whether Manziel had discussed his trademark filing with the school.

Manziel has been a polarizing figure since his Heisman Trophy-winning season at A&M two years ago.

Pro Football Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders is one of many in football to weigh in on the aura of Manziel, telling "The Tom Joyner Show" on Wednesday he "loves Johnny Football" and that the reason some people won't accept him is because of Manziel's "ghetto tendencies."

When pressed on the subject, Sanders said that what he meant by ghetto tendencies was Manziel's being "cocky, flamboyant" and not shy about telling others of his success.

While Sanders had nothing but praise for Manziel, the spectacle surrounding his pro day last week and his celebrity status concerned new Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, who said "flags" popped up when the team met with Manziel for a private workout.

Manziel's pro day included the presence of former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, and her two dogs, music from hip hop artist Drake being blasted through the building and the flashy quarterback wearing camouflage shorts, a black Nike jersey with his white No. 2 as well as a helmet and shoulder pads. Nike, which signed Manziel to an endorsement deal, is selling the clothes he wore on his pro day, including the jersey for $180.

Zimmer told the Houston Chronicle it was a "sideshow."

Darren Rovell | email

ESPN.com Sports Business reporter

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