Johnny Manziel in in possession of a Heisman Trophy, a chip on his shoulder and a target on his back.
"I expect hostility whenever (Texas A&M is) traveling and whenever people come into College Station," Manziel says of the Aggies upcoming season. "I have a target on my back and we've got a target on our backs. They're going to try to get under my skin and rattle me, so my job is to focus on my teammates and my coaches, which is what matters most, and block everything else out."
Manziel became the first-ever freshman winner of the Heisman while leading A&M to an 11-2 record in its first season in the SEC. Nicknamed "Johnny Football," his exploits have taken on "rock-star status," as noted this week in an exclusive interview on Dallas radio station 105.3 The Fan.
"There are 'haters' and all that stuff," Manziel said. "But it'll be alright... I don't want people to dictate how my life goes. I want to be able to live my life and not let (critics) be a distraction."
Manziel removed himself from Twitter for 17 days, he said, "because things we're getting a little crazy, a little hectic. This article, that article, blah-blah-blah... (Returning to Twitter) is no news. I'll just try to be like every other guy in college football who has a Twitter, and be smart with it and have fun and talk to people and interact You've got to have fun with it."
Manziel is certainly doing that. He said a highlight of the spring was traveling to Toronto to meet with the entertainer Drake. He joked of how storing the Heisman at his own place in College Station seems unwise, so it's kept at his parents' home. And he laughed about his spring-break trip to Cabo, where he got a Texas Longhorns tattoo.
"It was kind of like a dare," he said, "and I thought, 'What's it going to hurt?'"
Manziel is aware that from the moment he helped engineer A&M's upset of No. 1 Alabama last November to the present, when he's engaged in a whirlwind tour and experiencing life in a way that's not standard for a "normal" college student, he's had to work to "be the same person that my parents raised me to be... It's taken me some time to get used to. Thankfully, I've got people in my life like coach (Kevin) Sumlin and my family, my friends and the other coaches, who help me in my life."
Manziel, 20, said his philosophy is that he is "so blessed to play this game, so you've got to make sure you enjoy every second of the clock. Because one day, there's not going to be any time left."
There is, of course, still time on Manziel's college clock. He said the Aggies offense merits "expecting big things from us... We have a solid offense line, our running backs are complete solid, and our receivers are getting up to speed. We're going to stay true to our identity of moving fast and playing fast."
And with that trophy, that chip and that target comes confidence. Asked if he believes the Aggies can once again outduel Alabama in the SEC, Manziel replied firmly and politely.
"Yessir," he said.