June 19, 2013
Let's pretend we can go back in time to 2011. And let's pretend that quarterback Cam Newton had decided to return for his senior season after winning the Heisman Trophy and leading Auburn to the 2010 national championship.
Let's pretend that Newton had spent the offseason gallivanting around the country, rubbing elbows with celebrities, showing up courtside at NBA games and posing for pictures with beers in his hand. And let's pretend that he was taking only online courses at Auburn because he just couldn't be bothered by the adulation of fellow students.
And then let's pretend Newton took to Twitter - which he always had enough sense to avoid - and tweeted "Bull---- like tonight is a reason why I can't wait to leave Auburn...whenever it may be."
What would have been the response nationally?
Would we have heard that Newton was doing what any young man his age would do and enjoying himself and that college students breaking the law and drinking underage was no big deal?
Or would we have heard Newton's character, judgment and most everything else called into question?
We all know the answer to that, don't we?
We don't have to pretend that Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M's Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, has been enjoying his celebrity status when it suits him and whining about it when he doesn't. We don't have to pretend that he retreated from campus and took online courses so he wouldn't be bothered by the students who cheer for him on Saturdays. We don't have to pretend that he posed for pictures, at 20 years old, with a beer in his hand.
And we don't have to pretend that he tweeted the above words - about Texas A&M, of course.
What's the difference? Obviously, lots of folks think the white kid from Texas is a cool dude. They don't care that he got arrested last summer, don't care that lots of other college stars manage to cope with going to class with their fellow students.
Obviously, those same folks didn't like Newton, an African-American from Atlanta. They shrug off Manziel's missteps as a college student doing what college students do, yet they dug into the University of Florida records to discover, horror of horrors, Newton had received a lot of parking tickets.
Here's the truth: You'd never see a picture of Newton with a beer in his hand, then or now, because he doesn't drink alcohol. He never shied away from his fellow students but instead tried to be one of them. When he was a wealthy NFL quarterback, he returned to work on his degree and kept right on smiling when heads turned and students called his name. He showed up at the Auburn-Alabama basketball game and led cheers as the Tigers earned their biggest win in a miserable season.
I don't know Johnny Manziel. I do know he's a great football player who is exciting to watch. I also know that someone, somewhere needs to give him some advice before he, too, becomes a target.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: