Johnny Manziel: Social Media's First Heisman Winner, or Heisman's First Social Media Winner?

By Justine Hendricks
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports


Texas A&M‘s Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman thanks in part to the power of social media, which helped spread the word about the talented young player. It also turned every fan into a paparazzo and elevated “Johnny Football” from college football player to celebrity.

He found out firsthand about the pitfalls of the technology, but he’s also the first winner to fully embrace it, and now it seems he’s using it to mess with the legions of fans and bloggers monitoring his every move.

According to his Twitter feed, Manziel is on spring break in Cabo San Lucas this week, and photos surfaced of him shirtless – because it’s Cabo  – with a…Texas Longhorns tattoo on his ribcage? first posted the photos, speculating that Manziel had the logo inked on his side because he was a Longhorns fan growing up in Texas, which would both explain and excuse the photo. Except, of course, that was far from the end of it.

Amid speculation that the image was Photoshopped, Manziel fed the frenzy by tweeting: “FAKE tattoo…”

It’s not the first “fake” photo he’s taken heat for since taking home the Heisman. A few months ago, he tweeted a photo of himself with friends at a casino, smoking cigars and fanning out a wad of cash. Days later, in response to backlash from the casino shot, he posted another, of him fanning out Monopoly money with a young patient during a visit to a children’s hospital.

Now that Manziel is aware  – well-aware  – that his every move is going to make headlines, he’s playing into the hype or, to paraphrase, trolling the trolls.

He’s unlikely to be out of the spotlight any time soon (not that’s he’s trying), but if his fans and followers can’t tell what’s real and what’s fake when it comes to Manziel’s personal life, doesn’t that mean he’s winning the battle?

It has to be frustrating not to have any semblance of a personal life, and snarky Twitter responses aside, Manziel is doing an interesting job of making his voyeurs know what it feels like.

After being busted for thinking it was a real tattoo, lashed out:

“If you don’t want to blow up blogs, go to Cabo and avoid henna. Otherwise, we’re splashing your a** all over the internet…Again, you put a UT Longhorn henna on your abs and it’s on.”

Maybe Manziel did it on purpose to fake everyone out – but then again, he didn’t post the photo. Maybe he just happened to come across a Longhorns tat while he was with friends in Cabo, thought it was funny (or annoying) that they only had that particular fake tattoo, and slapped it on for the heck of it. Because it’s Manziel, and the internet watchdogs are glued to his every move, even something that simple becomes a big story.

Anyone who gets their boxers in a bunch over something Manziel says or does is missing Johnny Football’s cardinal rule of social media and celebrity: Don’t take it, or yourself, too seriously.

The mainstream media and the internet can point all the fingers they want at Manziel, but he’ll be pointing right back, with a big grin on his face.


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