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Johnny Manziel and The New Age of Avatar Athletes

Johnny Manziel

I ain’t perfect, I ain’t insane but I AM worth it…if there’s one thing I am               worth it. People keep hatin but it ain’t WORKIN!

     — Johnny Manziel (@JManziel2) August 1, 2013

Johnny Manziel, aka “Johnny Football”, is the most recognizable name in college football today. As a freshman quarterback for Texas A&M, Manziel led his team to an 11-2 record, a 41-14 victory over Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl Classic and won the ultimate collegiate prize for individual play, The Heisman Trophy. The accolades are impressive indeed, however the average sports fan is more familiar with the play of Manziel off the field rather than on. We have entered the age of the avatar athlete in America.

Finally hit 400,000 followers appreciate the love and the support #gigem

     — Johnny Manziel (@JManziel2) July 28, 2013

The advent of social media has proved to be a key component of the modern world of sports, and the information sought out by fans is readily available. The latest NBA trade is already known about on Twitter before it is made official, a video of a fan meeting their favorite NFL star can go viral instantly and the streakers of Major League Baseball can reach out to the Internet for “support”. The camera is on at all times. Professional athletes are not only learning how to handle wealth and fame, but also what they share with the world in the form of 140 words. What is the learning process for a college athlete such as Manziel?

Miami nights, it was all a dream

     — Johnny Manziel (@JManziel2) June 9, 2013

The highest point percentage for Heisman winners of the 50s, 60s and 70s belongs to USC’s O.J. Simpson with 80.64 in 1968. The only information shared by sports fans back then was what they knew about: sports. Twenty-four years later the country watched as Simpson drove around Los Angeles in a white bronco. In the current year of 2013, there is a demand to know what our athletes are doing at all times and they certainly know how to supply. Johnny Manziel knows how to supply. What is unique about the 20-year old quarterback is that he is not a professional…yet. He is a college student. Despite success on the college level nobody knows fore sure what Manziel will bring to the pro ranks other than a strong social media game. Johnny Football is a Heisman winner – that is a reality. The next level, the NFL, is still a dream. The decision-making of Manziel on the field is not under question, he can play, but the wide world of sports wants to know if Johnny Football can stay focused off the field. Are the antics of a typical college athlete being exploited?

Have a long flight from San Diego to Houston anybody up for some Q&A?

     — Johnny Manziel (@JManziel2) May 17, 2013

Manziel is not just a college athlete, he is the college athlete. The basic game of social media seems to be understood by Johnny Football, but can the quarterback identify the physical presence of social media? With reports of a video showing Manziel accepting money for autographs, the topic of self-awareness becomes a key factor in conceptualizing the future of the Heisman winner. Ideally, the Aggies will reach the BCS title game, Manziel will win another Heisman and his social media swag will elevate to another level as he rides his success all the way to the NFL. On the flip side, Johnny Football may never play another game for Texas A&M, his draft stock could slide and we may realize that Manziel is unable to handle the physical and mental realities of the NFL. That is the challenge. The games have to be played, and if Johnny Manziel can master his play off the field he may usher in the new age of avatar athletes.

Don’t hate the player hate the game #HA

     — Johnny Manziel (@JManziel2) April 12, 2013

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