This is an article from the Dec. 23, 2013 issue
ONE AND DONE?
The Texas A&M quarterback didn't repeat as the Heisman Trophy winner last Saturday. (He finished fifth.) But after he faces Duke in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, Johnny Football will be eligible to declare for the 2014 draft.
DAN PATRICK:Last year we talked after you won the Heisman. I said, "Be prepared because people are going to come after you." Did you realize what I was telling you at the time?
JOHNNY MANZIEL: I did not. I think it's one of those things you can hear told to you time and time again. Until you live it, until you go through it, you really don't understand the magnitude of it all. But I will sit here today and tell you that you were exactly right.
DP:Did I underestimate or overestimate what was going to happen?
JM: Probably underestimate.
DP:Will you change how you play in the NFL?
JM: I think my skill set is unique and something that can be brought into the NFL.
DP:If I told you that you weren't going to be a first-round choice, what would you do?
JM: I don't know what I would do. It would be a decision I'd have to make with my family. It would probably mean returning to A&M another year. I have a big choice ahead either way. It weighs on you—the pros and cons of coming back to a great school and yet wanting to continue your career on the next level.
DP:Who goes higher in the draft, you or Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans?
JM: If he went higher than me, I'd be the first person there to congratulate him. I'm his biggest fan. He's one of the best receivers in the entire country and an even better person.
DP:If I gave you a mulligan, would you change anything?
JM: I don't think so. I lived my life and I learned from that. I took things in stride and continued to adapt.
DP:Should college players be paid?
JM: If it could easily be changed, we would have implemented it by now. It's a tricky situation, with schools like Alabama that make so much money and smaller schools that don't. I feel that down the road something will be changed.
DP:You went through a lot; the NCAA investigated you. [Manziel was suspended by A&M for half a game on suspicion of receiving money for autographs.] Who did you lean on to help you get through some of the challenges?
JM: There was a guy who I met who really helped me stay focused. That guy was LeBron James. A guy that texted me every day. He continues to give me great advice.
DP:LeBron didn't go to college. How can he relate to what you went through?
JM: I think with criticism and how everybody went after me. LeBron is a guy who deals with that every day, on a much bigger level than me.
Hall of Famer Johnny Bench is thrilled that MLB is protecting catchers by instituting new rules that ban home plate collisions. "I've got 17 broken bones," the 66-year-old Bench told me. "That's why you see catchers go through slumps." ... I asked Pacers coach Frank Vogel whom young shooters should emulate. He settled on Stephen Curry, with a nod to Ray Allen (page 114): "The difference between Ray Allen and Steph Curry is that Allen will get a foot off the ground before his release. Not everyone [can] do that. Curry has a release you can teach children." ... Saturday Night Live's Seth Meyers talked about his favorite sports guests. The one who left the biggest impression: Patriots QB Tom Brady. "Brady is a smooth operator," Meyers said. "He's the guy who you hope you can still be friends with. You're like, Hey, that was a great week. Here's my email if you ever want to check in."