UPDATE, Monday September 30: Since publishing our original story we have been in contact with our source and he has provided even more evidence of who he is, because he saw he was being questioned. Originally he showed us proof that he had donated in the mid-six figures to Texas A&M in the past 18 months, but he has gone back further now and shown us even more substantial donations over the past five years. We have also heard from other Texas A&M boosters who both agree and disagree with our source on different topics.
Several agreed to prove their identities through the same processes we used to verify our original source. Three boosters have verified their identities to our satisfaction and all three have agreed with almost everything our original source told us. The only place they differed was their perception of Kevin Sumlin, how he has handled the Johnny Manziel situation and whether or not his star has dimmed at all in College Station. Their responses were split.
We’ve asked several who contacted us and disagreed with our original source to prove their identities and go on the record, but they have either agreed and been proven to be fake or they have refused to allow us to verify who they are.
Additionally we have contacted our player source again and he stands by his statement and after reading the piece he agrees with the booster on most of his claims.
When we broke the news that Johnny Manziel had been booted from the Manning Passing Academy in July, we faced a lot of backlash from Texas A&M fans. One reader in particular, was very harsh in his critiques of our reporting. He identified himself as a Texas A&M booster who had donated north of six figures to the program in just the past few years.
When the dust settled and our story was proven 100 percent correct, that reader apologized profusely and explained that he and many of his friends had been duped by the lies coming out of the Manziel camp. Eventually, we convinced that booster to go on the record with us and discuss a wide range of topics, from Johnny Manziel, to Texas A&M’s athletics programs, to the role of boosters in college sports.
The booster agreed as long as he remained anonymous so as not to face backlash from the Texas A&M community.
The results of our extensive email interview are below. These are the exact responses we received and we decided not to even fix any typos in his answers so everything is authentic, though we did add in some parentheticals for clarity.
At the end of the piece we explain in detail how this interview all came about and how we put it together.
How do Johnny Manziel’s teammates view him?
“Half his teammates can’t stand him. They rip him when he’s not around but they’re not stupid, most know they need him to win games. Some on the team do think they would be fine with (backup quarterbacks) Matt (Joeckel) or Kenny (Hill) back there.”
What is he like personally?
“The kid is personable but he’s also a great liar. It just comes naturally to him. I think he’s gotten away with everything his whole life and hasn’t had someone ever tell him no. Im not sure he’s actually a bad kid deep down but he’s basically what happens when no one sits a kid down and punishes him for stuff he does wrong.”
Does his personality just rub people the wrong way?
“Johnny’s personality can turn on a dime. He’ll be the nicest kid one minute, then be putting someone down the next. It’s almost like he’s got something to prove to himself and the people around him. Maybe he’s bi-polar I don’t know.”
Do you believe Manziel took money for his autograph?
“Of course Johnny got paid for his autograph and I’m sure it’s happened multiple times. Only idiots think he didn’t and the NCAA is fine w/it because hes going to make them money. It’s all about the bottom line for everyone involved. Same with (Cam) Newton everyone knows what really went down but no one wants to acknowlege (sic) it publicly.”
It was reported that some Texas A&M boosters were fed up with Manziel, is that your sense of things?
“A group of boosters seriously talked about hiring someone to follow Johnny around in College Station and basically look over his shoulder. If he got into anything bad they would have grabbed him and reminded him of who he was and what he represented. If they couldn’t stop him and he got in trouble, then they would have paid the right people to make it go away.”
“Johnny has been trouble since he showed up on campus. If he wasn’t as good as he is on the field he’d have been booted a long time ago. He’d be playing D-2 ball if he wasn’t so good.”
What about his teammates, are they in the same boat as those boosters?
“He’s not the kind of guy who would ever win a popularity contest in the locker room. Everyone knows it, except maybe Johnny. I think he’s just oblivious to it all. He can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t like him or would look at him negatively.”
Our source then brought up former Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill without prompting and began comparing him to Manziel
“Ryan (Tannehill) was a dream as a player and a person. He did whatever the coaches asked of him, he was such a great kid too off the field. Teammates loved him and would have gone through walls for him. Johnny is basically the opposite personality-wise. But Ryan also worked hard to get better, I think Johnny thinks he’s arrived and doesn’t have to keep improving. He works, but not like someone with something to prove.”
How would you compare them?
“Ryan was an unassuming kid and a leader, Johnny could really have learned a lot from him but he has always been the kind of guy who thinks he already has all of the answers.”
“(Manziel)’s in for a rude awakening in the NFL if he gets there.”
What do boosters think about the way head coach Kevin Sumlin has handled the Manziel situation?
“After last year Kevin could have written his own ticket (at Texas A&M) everyone was so happy with where the program was and how he was doing things. But after this last few months and the way he’s handled Johnny a lot of people aren’t happy. He’s lost the respect of a lot of people in the community here and a lot of his players think he’s given Manziel special treatment that the rest of them wouldn’t get. He’s lost the respect of a lot of the older players who hate what Johnny represents.”
He emailed back to clarify something after that answer. Here is what he said:
“Don’t get me wrong, Sumlin is still very popular here, but the enthusiasm that was around the program in January has dimmed a little bit because of all this.”
Through several sources we managed to get in touch via email with a multi-year letterman currently on the Texas A&M roster, and when asked about our source’s characterization of Manziel, how his teammates feel about him and whether or not Sumlin had lost the respect of some players on the team his response was: “Yeah I’d say all of that is accurate.”
The player further told us he did not have any personal problems with Manziel or Sumlin but knew many of his teammates did. He spoke on the condition that we kept his name out of the report because he feared backlash in the locker room.
What was your reaction to the recent Sports Illustrated piece on Oklahoma State’s football program?
“Not surprising at all because that’s become the norm in college sports these days. I’m not sure about academic misconduct being prevalent but drugs, money and sex are all everywhere.”
Our source refused to say anything specific about fellow Texas A&M boosters and his own actions because he was afraid it might lead to Texas A&M and its football program getting into trouble, so many of his statements in the next section were posed as hypotheticals.
Do you know of any Texas A&M players receiving money from boosters?
“You can’t win at a high level D-1 program if you’re not paying players something. It’s just not possible these days.”
Do you know of other programs where players are getting paid?
“I have close friends from the business community who are boosters for other big football programs and we all talk. We know what’s going on and it’s everywhere. I mean, you really think (head coach Nick) Saban and Alabama are clean? Please. They’re just great at hiding things, covering up their tracks and shutting players up.”
“Do you really think those kids from bad neighborhoods could afford the nice cars they drive around in if they weren’t getting something on the side? Lets not be naive.”
It sounds like you’re OK with boosters giving kids money. Is that the case?
“When these kids go out on weekends people buy them drinks at bars all the time. Other students, fans, townies, etc. Is that an NCAA violation? If I see a kid and slide him $20 to get a hamburger or a pizza, how is that different? I don’t think it’s wrong to make sure these kids are getting enough to eat and are enjoying college just like other kids.”
So would you give money to a player if you thought he needed it?
“Why wouldn’t I kick a little cash to a kid who needs it?”
Would you give a player money if he performed well in a game?
“Performance bonuses cross a line for me. If someone else wants to do that, hey it’s their money.”
So you’ve never done that?
“Not going to say I’ve never done anything like that in the past, but I won’t confirm it either.”
In light of recent revelations, do you think the NCAA should crack down on boosters and their access to players, coaches and the program?
“I’d love to see the NCAA try to do that. They won’t get between boosters and anyone because we’re the main driving force behind donations to schools. And who runs the conferences and the NCAA? Former college administrators who used to hound alums for donations so they know how important we are. It will never happen.”
Do you think the NCAA should just pay players?
“I have no idea how that would work logistically but if you’re a good player at a big school your (sic) already getting something.”
So would you support the idea?
“I’m not against it but have no idea how it would work.”
Why talk to us? Why did you decide to come forward and allow this to be published?
“I hate the way the program I love looks right now because of what has happened with Johnny. A&M has been portrayed so negatively through this whole thing. Johnny should have been suspended for his actions this offseason even if he didn’t break any NCAA rules. But he did and we all know he did. He’s made the administrators and coaches look like jokes and it’s hurting the program.”
Would you say your attitude is in line with that of most other Texas A&M boosters?
“Plenty of other boosters feel the same way but they like winning too much to say anything.”
Wins don’t make dealing with Manziel worth it?
“Wins are great but in Kevin’s system we could win w/out Johnny. He should have been suspended for a few games then maybe he would have learned something. He was told repeatedly to tone it down this offseason but stuff just kept getting worse. Johnny loves the spotlight and being a star. He probably likes that stuff even more than playing football.”
Since we are a smaller site and faced a tremendous amount of backlash and questions concerning how we could get a scoop when we originally reported on Johnny Manziel’s banishment from the Manning Passing Academy, we figured we should lay out how we got this scoop in case anyone questions our reporting.
When we broke the Manziel/Manning Camp story, there was a tidal wave of comments, emails and messages on Twitter demanding we retract the story because Manziel and Texas A&M denied it. We stood by our story while virtually everyone else’s changed. In the end (probably by about a week after we broke it) we had been proven 100 percent right and had never wavered on our original reporting.
In the midst of that, one person who demanded a retraction was a prominent Texas A&M booster. I personally explained the situation and told him we were standing by our story. After several strongly-worded emails from him, he eventually came to the realization that our story was correct and apologized profusely. He, along with many of his friends, believed Manziel’s lies about being sick, then about oversleeping, etc. before realizing they had been duped.
After his apology, we struck up a bit of a friendship with him. Given his place as a prominent booster I had questions about the behind the scenes world he dealt with and how people in College Station really felt about Manziel. After nearly two months of discussing various topics from Manziel and his family, to the role of boosters in college sports and even politics, I informed him that I would really like to use our question and answer sessions as the basis for a post. Being that I am a journalist, I guess you could say that was my intention from the start, but I was prepared for him to deny my request and figured he would.
To our surprise after a few days of considering, he accepted on the condition that his name and certain specific details that could be used to identify him were left out of the piece.
To prove to us who he was, he provided copies of bank statements showing that he had made donations to Texas A&M totaling in the six-figure range in the past few years, a photo ID and several pictures of him with various coaches, players and school administrators (past and present). We were also provided with contact information of two other people we knew to be Texas A&M boosters to confirm his identity, which they did.
Additionally the current player we contacted told us he had met the man we were talking to and that he had seen him numerous times throughout his time at Texas A&M.
What can we say about him? He is a graduate of Texas A&M from the 1980s and a prominent football booster who has made several significant donations to the university, which he proved to us beyond any doubt.
Now for our credentials since they were questioned the last time we did something like this.
I spent five years working as a sports reporter for a newspaper in Indiana, before spending time as an NFL writer and editor for Bleacher Report. I am currently the Managing Editor of Midwest Sports Fans and have done work for Fox Sports, Yardbarker, Yahoo! Sports, SB Nation and several other major national outlets. I would never report anything unless I was sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was fully vetted and researched.
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*Multiple members of the Rumors and Rants staff contributed to this report