- Associated Press - Friday, October 10, 2014

BEREA, Ohio (AP) - Johnny Manziel built his brand and bolstered Texas A&M;’s by producing magical moments on the field and winning.

He made the school money and feels college athletes should be getting paid.

On Friday, the Browns rookie quarterback and former Heisman Trophy winner said the NCAA should change its rules and allow college athletes to capitalize on their likeness.

Addressing the situation involving Georgia running back Todd Gurley, who was suspended indefinitely on Thursday as the school investigates an alleged violation of NCAA rules, Manziel said he can relate to Gurley’s predicament and believes college players should be compensated.

“I obviously know what Todd’s going through and I feel for him,” Manziel said. “Obviously I don’t know every single (detail) of the situation that he’s in, but at the same time I think he’s done a great job and worked extremely hard to make a name for himself on the football field. He has an image and he has a likeness and he has obviously a want and a need for his autograph - and I feel that if he wants he should be able to have a system that allows him to go out and capitalize from that.”

Georgia officials have not revealed the nature of their investigation. But SI.com, citing anonymous sources, reported Gurley received money for signing memorabilia.

Manziel, who won the Heisman as a freshman with the Aggies, was investigated before the 2013 season when reports surfaced that he received money for signing autographs. The NCAA agreed with Texas A&M; to sit Manziel for the first half of the season opener against Rice, with no finding he did anything wrong.

SI.com reported that Gurley is accused of receiving $400 to sign 80 pieces of memorabilia on campus earlier this year.

Manziel said he believes it’s time for the NCAA to take closer look at how the money in big-time college football is distributed.

“I think it’s at a big crossroads right now with how much money college football in particular is bringing in for universities, for networks, for the SEC for everything of that nature and then guys are walking out with an $800 scholarship check a month,” he said. “It’s an ongoing thing and we don’t know every bit and piece, but he (Gurley) has built an image for himself. I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon, but at the same time I think it is an ongoing problem in college athletics.”

Moments after speaking with reporters, Manziel offered his support to Gurley by tweeting: “#FreeGurley.”

Manziel knows what it’s like to be tempted by memorabilia collectors willing to pay for a signature. He said it’s difficult to separate the casual fan from someone looking to cash in.

“People walk around on game days in brand new jerseys with tags on them,” he said. “You see it here in the NFL. Any sporting event, signatures and autographs are something that every fan usually wants, and it’s really hard to decide when somebody comes up to you and asks you to sign if they genuinely want your autograph, are a die-hard fan, or if they’re going to take this back and sell it and try to make it for their own profit.”

In addition to getting a stipend of some kind, Manziel would also like to see college athletes receive some financial training. He says there are too many cases of athletes spending their scholarship money too quickly, and by the end of the month not having food in their refrigerator or enough to pay the electric bill.

“I definitely feel there is some type of way to get these players more money, more resources, something to help them out because they are doing so much and creating so much money,” he said. “And I get that’s not the case at every single school around the country. But the majority of big schools are very profitable.”

The scrutiny has followed Manziel from campus to the NFL sideline.

In last week’s game at Tennessee, TV cameras captured Manziel laughing as the Browns fell behind 28-3. Manziel was standing with practice squad QB Connor Shaw when he was shown smiling and joking around.

“It was just me and Connor kind of just talking,” Manziel explained. “The camera kind of just caught me at a time that was a little bit after a play. At that point in the game, it was almost like everything was going so wrong for us that all you can kind of do is sit back and just kind of chuckle. But at the same time, me and Connor have a really fun relationship during games. And as serious and in tune to the game as we are, it’s not like that every play.”

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Website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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