Exclusive: Texas A&M booster discusses Johnny Manziel, behind the scenes of football program

September 27, 2013 – 11:07 am by Ryan Phillips

Johnny Manziel

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.”

 

The Process:

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.

Follow us on Twitter for more @RumorsandRants

*Multiple members of the Rumors and Rants staff contributed to this report

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  1. 35 Responses to “Exclusive: Texas A&M booster discusses Johnny Manziel, behind the scenes of football program”

  2. This is the exact kind of sports reporting the fans DESERVE. You (and your team) have verified sources and did all the work. Doesn’t look like you took any shortcuts; in fact you did the opposite of what a major sports network would have reported. Fantastic work, sir. I look forward to reading many more posts from you.

    By Ray on Sep 27, 2013

  3. 9/27/2013

    Very interesting post!! I appreciate the condor!
    Manziel sounds like another Ryan Leif in the making!!

    By Dr Chuck on Sep 27, 2013

  4. Saying that that they could win without johnny, lol they would just be an average 8-4 team or smith then.
    Ye he done some bad things off the field but imagine all the money he have helped to get to a&m. Since everyone want to see him play.
    I’m from Sweden and just barly started following college football and basically all I care about is to watch johnny football play since he is so awesome and fun to watch.

    By Erik on Sep 27, 2013

  5. Ye ofc everything that the booster says is true

    By Ben on Sep 27, 2013

  6. Verified sources?! There are no sources…just a “take my word for it” story that can’t be corroborated.

    By Adam on Sep 27, 2013

  7. This is the silliest thing I’ve read all year! Good grief, this supposed booster sounds like he has a personality disorder based on the tone and manner he answers questions.

    Like the poster said above, this is a “I’m rich and trust me I’m close to the program so trust me and everything I say!”

    Like I said, silly piece of journalism designed strictly to get “clicks” which I imagine have dwindled dramatically since your last JFF story.

    By John on Sep 28, 2013

  8. This is complete conjecture and non-verified BS.

    By Eric on Sep 28, 2013

  9. Complete BS.

    By TV on Sep 28, 2013

  10. 100k over a few years wouldn’t put this “booster” in the position to have the access necessary to make informed opinions on this matter. This “booster” is probably upset about his lack of access and is crying out for attention. His comments are pathetic and range from incredibly misinformed to downright false.

    By The Truth on Sep 28, 2013

  11. 6 figures over several years does not buy much access at A&M. Try 7 figures and those guys don’t interview with sites like these. If you want a trueley investigative article go read Feldman’s after he embedded himself in the team for a week before the Bama game.

    By Steve on Sep 28, 2013

  12. He has given at least six figures in the past year and a half that we were shown. Weren’t shown anything further back but trust us these were major donations that got him inner circle access. We were shown more than enough proof of that.

    By Ryan Phillips on Sep 28, 2013

  13. I can understand if people have issue with the booster’s opinion, but you can’t just strike it off as bs or question his credentials. This was a great article, not just for the content but that most writers don’t go the extra mile and prove their sources. People are acting as if the booster has an ulterior motive but why would he? He’s a booster, he wants A&M to win but have a good reputation to go with it, and clearly he feels the university’s reputation is suffering. I can sympathise with his position.

    By Matt McGreevy on Sep 28, 2013

  14. We are raising 450mm for a new stadium and your seats depend on donations. All the Ags are throwing money at the team right now to position themselves for seats. 60-100k is normal for big money Ags right now. You can take his word I don’t care but 6 figures does not buy access he claims. And I’m from big money family. Look up names like McFerrin, Richardson, Adam and Bright and you will find the big money.

    This guy is mid level at best and obviously has an ax to grind. My guess is lack of access for what he thinks is enough donations to get it.

    By Steve on Sep 28, 2013

  15. Oh and one more data point A&M raised 740 million last year and of that about 140 million for athletics alone. So how does that 100K look in comparison?

    By Steve on Sep 28, 2013

  16. $100K over a few years would not get this booster anywhere near the program. Someone is taking you for a ride, Ryan. Stop making shit up for page hits.

    By Joker Phillipz on Sep 30, 2013

  17. Great read! Everyone knows it goes on at every school not just the SEC. I work with a Sun Belt University and see it first hand.

    By SunBelt on Sep 30, 2013

  18. anyone else think that Gollum is playing AB for the Aggies right now ??? ;-)

    By Sweet Lou on Sep 30, 2013

  19. I meant “QB”

    By Sweet Lou on Sep 30, 2013

  20. A booster that is just north of six figures and has ALL this inside information. BULL $hit!!!! Major boosters are north of 7 figures at A & M and any other large D-1 college. This is ALL speculation and NOT ONE WORD can be verified. You have NO idea if this guy is close or not!!! Because he said so!!!! GIVE ME A BREAK. I do agree with one thing. They are ALL being paid!!!! IF SO, SHUT UP AND MOVE ON!!! IT THAT IS TRUE, YOU HAVE NO STORY!!!!

    By Bill Dickie on Sep 30, 2013

  21. How is this “on the record” when the person isn’t identified?

    By Brian on Sep 30, 2013

  22. I could not read this anymore. Ever heard the saying if it is anonymous then its not a source. This guy/girl is talking completely out his ass. he talks as if because hes a booster he knows all the players and how they feel. I would be careful writing this piece, seems phony as soon as you read the answers. This guy is not in the locker room or on the field. These are the cliche answers i would expect any anti-johnny person to say. Ryan Phillips i am sure you are a blogger who couldnt let this opportunity go bc you are feening for some popularity, but this was poorly done. And i have no horse in this race im from Jersey, just a very poor article, and it is a shame how bad ppl wanna take this kid down. Let him live, and he can really play, watch the Alabama footage, beginning to end, he drives The Great Nick Saban Crazy, cant plan for that type of elusive creativity, so he has some growing up to do who cares. THis guy you interviewed and yourself are tasteless and just looking for a nut.

    By Tito Tino on Sep 30, 2013

  23. Oh my, some older players don’t like the flashy talented younger player. Nice scoop.

    Some random speculation about paying. OK, many say the same thing. NCAA has a paying problem. Dooo go oooonnn.

    This is a fluffed up piece. Took some innuendos and ponderments and made a story. Nice for you to have this forum to sully players and coaches.

    By Tommy on Sep 30, 2013

  24. Full disclosure: I’m an Aggie (little money donor).

    This is not fantastic sports journalism by any stretch. Better than most major outlets? Probably, but that’s like saying having herpes is better than having AIDS.

    The reason this is not good journalism is that, although the source has been vetted, his information hasn’t been confirmed by other sources.

    I don’t know if what he’s saying is accurate or not. However, you don’t know either. Further, it appears you didn’t even try to find out. You liked what he told you and then did some homework on his identity. His identity has been validated, but his statements have not been. Additional sources that confirm this gentleman’s claims are needed for this to be good journalism. Otherwise it is just more gossip drivel.

    Regardless, I’m sure every D1 program has shady crud going on in their Football and Basketball programs.

    By TPS_Report on Sep 30, 2013

  25. I hope Manziel reads this and his lawyers look into suing for slander!!!!!

    By Bob on Sep 30, 2013

  26. I have exclusive information as well about the authors of this website. My source asked me not to reveal him for fear of backlash. But basically my source says that the authors of RumorsAndRants.com are accused pedophiles. They have been allegedly been linked with child pornography. STAY AWAY FROM THESE GUYS – THEY ARE DANGEROUS AND HORNY!

    By Jake Mansfield on Sep 30, 2013

  27. I do not question the story or the opinion of this booster. As a donor at a similar level as this guy, I can add that virtually everyone I talk to share the opinion that Manziel is nothing but great for A&M and that Sumlin’s reputation is as solid as ever.
    I can also attest that players in the locker room consider Manziel a great teammate and a hard worker. As with any organization, you can find exceptions.

    By Charles on Sep 30, 2013

  28. Your methods for “verifying” the identity of the booster are extremely flimsy. Not to mention there isn’t a single fact in the entire article, just one man’s opinion of what the team feels and other boosters feel. A man who’s only given just north of 6 figures over several years does not have this kind of access to the team, that may sound like a lot to you but in reality this is a very small donation in the grand scheme of things. Anyone can get their pictures taken or hang around athletes occasionally, this does not mean they know the pulse of the team. This entire article sounds like one man’s attempt to justify his feelings towards a kid he doesn’t personally like, which is quite rediculous. You could find several boosters at every school in the country who’d tell you the same thing about their star player or university, doesn’t mean it’s true. So many of the facts and inferences are soo far fetched and clearly false that the whole thing just feels rigged, even if the source exists, he does not represent this team or the boosters across the board.

    By Travis Burnett on Sep 30, 2013

  29. More garbage journalism. So if I told you I was Kevin Sumlins nephew and spewed bullsh*t at you via email. You’d write an article on it? Bogus BS

    By Dale on Sep 30, 2013

  30. Is the anonymous source Manti Te’o’s internet girlfriend? This reads like an Onion article.

    By john on Sep 30, 2013

  31. This is just stupid. Probably none of it is true. Some one needed a story. So tired of all these stories from unbiased (supposedly). So I can say anything I want and you would believe me. LOLOLOLOL

    By Ann on Sep 30, 2013

  32. This really sounds like you are campaigning for a job with ESPN

    By Ed on Sep 30, 2013

  33. Boosters have been giving players money for a long time. Most boosters are fanatics with 6 figures to give; there are very few Boone Pickens or Phil Knights around. But if you don’t want to believe Johnny took money or anything else you read here….lol don’t forget to leave cookies out for Santa Claus. Something I have been wondering about is what Johnny’s teammates think…and this answers it. Thank you for not taking the tone of the SI story on Oklahoma State.

    By martham on Sep 30, 2013

  34. Ohio State Alum here-

    This story just reeks. Someone mentioned in another article that it reads like “The Onion”, which sounds about right. I’m gonna call BS on this one. It all sounds completely fabricated.

    By Jeb on Oct 1, 2013

  35. Regardless of what you say, this is not a news report. Until you name the source it is B.S. No booster would cut his school and team at the knees. My source says that you are liars.

    By Agricolas on Oct 2, 2013

  36. How do you explain the 700 million plus from the boosters?

    By floyd on Oct 5, 2013

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