Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M says he's learning every day about life as a celebrity.
The first freshman to win college football's top award said Thursday he was trying to avoid making "the same mistakes again" after a picture of him holding cash at a casino was posted to his Twitter account Saturday, a day after the Aggies beat Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl. The picture was later removed.
Manziel responded to apparent criticism by tweeting, "Nothing illegal about being 18+ in a casino and winning money.KEEP HATING!" Speaking on a conference call to accept the Manning Award that goes to a top college quarterback after bowl season, Manziel said he wasn't growing weary of the scrutiny.
"I don't really pay attention to that stuff as much as some people do," said Manziel, who set SEC and Cotton Bowl records for total yards and helped the Aggies (11-2) to their best record since 1998. "I've got to learn from it and move on and make sure I don't make some of the same mistakes again as far as the stuff I've been doing."
Manziel was right about gambling being legal for anyone 18 or older at the WinStar casino, about an hour north of Dallas just across the state line in Oklahoma. It was a little murkier when the celebrity website TMZ posted a photo of the 20-year-old football sensation holding a champagne bottle at a Dallas club on Saturday night.
According to reports, Manziel showed up at the club hours after the Aggies' win in the Cotton Bowl on Friday and went back the next night. However, TMZ also reported that Manziel was accompanied by his mother, making it legal for him to drink. A club manager said nobody saw Manziel drinking.
Last summer — several months before the Johnny Football phenomenon took over college football — Manziel was arrested after police say he was involved in a fight and produced a fake ID. He started every game for the Aggies and ended up breaking Cam Newton's SEC record with 4,600 total yards before producing 516 more in a 41-13 victory over the Sooners at Cowboys Stadium.
"It's weird for me because life is changing," said Manziel, whose 5,116 total yards were the most for a Heisman winner. "I'm still the same person I have been. I'm just learning something new every day and kind of trying to figure out stuff more and more as the days go on."
Manziel, also the Davey O'Brien winner and the AP player of the year, was the first freshman to win the Manning Award, in its ninth year as a Sugar Bowl-sponsored tribute to the Manning family of quarterbacks.
Archie Manning, father of Super Bowl winners Peyton and Eli Manning, said he was surprised to learn from Manziel that he attended the Manning passing camp when he was in high school in the Central Texas town of Kerrville. He was quick to tell Manziel he had an open invitation to be a camp counselor.
"I can't say I know what he's going through, but he's handling everything extremely well," Manning said. "If I could have any advice for him on this, he will continue to have it. He's a special young man and it's a special time in his life and he needs to enjoy it."