COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS (AP) - Johnny Football is practicing with Texas A&M.
Whether he starts the season opener is another question.
Coach Kevin Sumlin on Monday said he would not speculate when asked if Johnny Manziel will be his starter on Aug. 31 against Rice following an ESPN report that the NCAA is investigating whether the Heisman Trophy winner was paid for signing hundreds of autographs last January.
“There’s a lot of people involved in that decision,” Sumlin said without being specific.
If Manziel was paid for his autograph on memorabilia, it could potentially violate NCAA amateurism rules and put his eligibility in question a year after his jaw-dropping performance on the field made him the first freshman to win the Heisman as college football’s top player.
Speaking to the media as the team began preseason practices, Sumlin said he learned of the ESPN report Sunday.
For now, Manziel will lead the Aggies. But his coach is clearly thinking of backups, too.
“He’ll get as many reps as he was going to get yesterday,” Sumlin said of Manziel, before adding: “We’ve got to develop a backup quarterback no matter what.”
The report is just the latest in a string of off-the-field distractions caused by Manziel.
He’s made headlines for tweeting that he “can’t wait to leave College Station,” despite having three years of eligibility remaining, he allegedly overslept at a football camp run by the Manning family and was supposedly kicked out of a University of Texas fraternity party in the past couple of months.
The 20-year-old sophomore calmly answered question after question at SEC media days last month, acknowledging his eventful offseason and indicating he needed to make better decisions because he’s such a public figure.
“I don’t feel like I’ve done anything that’s catastrophic,” Manziel said then. “Of course, I’ve made my mistakes. It’s time to grow up.”
Last week, Manziel tweeted: “I ain’t perfect, I ain’t insane but I AM worth it…if there’s one thing I am worth it.”
The antics have overshadowed what is expected to be a banner year for Texas A&M. The Aggies are coming off an 11-2 record in their first season in the SEC after moving from the Big 12, a year highlighted by Manziel leading Texas A&M to an upset win at No. 1 Alabama. The rematch in College Station is Sept. 14.
But instead of answering questions about his expectations for the season, Sumlin was left to respond to question after question about Manziel.