Johnny Manziel talks Twitter, awards week

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is up for the Maxwell and Davey O'Brien Awards tonight. AP Photo/John Raoux

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Texas A&M freshman QB Johnny Manziel is on the verge of a monstrous week. He turns 20 Thursday and would love to celebrate by winning the Davey O'Brien and Maxwell awards, set to be presented at the Atlantic Dance Hall on Disney's Boardwalk at Walt Disney World Thursday night. He’s also a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, to be awarded in New York on Saturday. And he even took down USC wide receiver Marqise Lee in "NCAA Football 13" Wednesday night.

But his high point may have come Tuesday afternoon when his Twitter account became officially verified and he got the prized blue checkmark.

Manziel said Wednesday he's preparing a speech "just in case" he wins the Heisman. But he was completely unprepared for getting the coveted status of Twitter verification.

"Sitting in the equipment room with the guys just thumbing though Twitter, I clicked on it one minute and saw I was just normal like every other day and then I clicked on it about five minutes later and saw a blue check. The equipment room erupted and everyone was going nuts," Manziel said when asked by Playbook about his Twitter exploits at a media event previewing the Home Depot College Football Awards, which will air on ESPN starting at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Manziel has more nearly 94,000 followers on his @JManziel2 account and frequently tweets his thoughts about football, movies and responses to those followers who catch his eye.

From jmanziel2 via Instagram.

"The positive feedback is awesome. It's awesome to read what people think about me and that I'm their role model. It really makes you feel good. As far as my tweeting goes, I just try to let people know a little bit more about who I am and what I do throughout the day," Manziel said. "... I'm just a normal kid like everyone [even if] people picture me like 'Johnny Manziel Some Sort of Superhero.'"

Several Kentucky basketball players deleted their Twitter accounts this week because of the criticism they've been receiving from fans. Manziel said that's just part of the social media world. "With the negative stuff," he said, "you just look at it and move on and deal with the criticism."

Manziel's celebrity spans across all social media platforms as this video of Rob "The Original" Ferrel's "Johnny Football" haircut went viral last week and got its bearer, Christian Chavez, sent home from school in Manziel's hometown of Kerrville, Texas, for causing a "distraction" among his fellow classmates.

Count Manziel as one of those who thought the haircut was pretty sweet.

"I knew [Christian] from high school and played basketball with his brother in middle school and football a little bit in high school," Manziel said in response to a question about the video from Playbook. "The guy did a really good job. From the pictures I saw and the video, I had to check it out because of how much buzz it got [including 95,000 YouTube views and national media coverage on ESPN and elsewhere]," Manziel said. "Looking at it and the way he did it. Props to that guy he did a really good job."

Notre Dame senior tight end Tyler Eifert (@EiferTy80), who won the John Mackey Award Wednesday, was reminded this week that someone is always watching when it comes to Twitter, especially when you have more than 17,800 followers.

"He tweets at me quite a bit," Eifert said of Father Gurtner, who is a priest at Eifert's home parish in Fort Wayne, Ind. "It's wasn't a joke, but it was more light than it seemed."

Negative feedback has been there on Twitter, even for the 12-0 Fighting Irish. "There's been some. You just ignore the critics," Eifert said. "There's so many supporters out there. It's pretty cool. We have a lot of fans and a lot of support. It's good to see that after a game."

Or on the night you win the Mackey Award:

Wisconsin running back Montee Ball (@M_Ball28) , who turned 22 Wednesday, couldn't wait to tell his 39,000-plus followers that he had arrived in Central Florida from the frozen tundra of Madison. Ball is a finalist for the Doak Walker Award.

"Thirty-two degrees back at home. It's nice to come into this weather," Ball said. Like so many others, he began tweeting because his friends were doing it and uses it to simply network with as many people as possible. "I just wanted to see how it was and it's pretty fun."

Even though it was his birthday Wednesday, he was shown no mercy when it came to "NCAA Football 13":

Ball, who finished fourth in the Heisman voting last year, was also slammed on Twitter when he decided to return to Wisconsin for his senior year, forgoing the NFL draft in 2012. "When that happened, I was getting a lot of negative feedback," he said. "I really just ignored it and scrolled past it to see what others and my teammates were saying."

Tulane kicker and Lou Groza Award finalist Cairo Santos (@19Brazilians) has practical reasons to use social media. Santos left his native Brazil to attend high school in St. Augustine, Fla., and said he talks to his mother via Skype and uses his Twitter account and Facebook page to communicate with friends and family back home.

“People tweet at me," he said. "They want know all about football in America and they ask a lot of questions about Tulane.”

North Carolina offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper tweets under the handle @TheUnderDog_64 and wasn't shy about telegraphing his emotions if he happens to win the Outland Trophy and his thoughts about meeting the other award finalists.

"I was skeptical. I thought, 'It's not for me' after having Facebook. But one of my teammates told me it's a good marketing tool and a way to show your personality," said Cooper, who has avoided any Twitter faux pas. "I am a very filtered person. I'm one of those guys who will think about it before I press the button."

USC's Lee (@TeamLee1), a Biletnikoff Award finalist and Manziel's "NCAA 13" victim Wednesday, also felt the sting of Twitter critics in the wake of the Trojans' 22-13 loss to Notre Dame on Nov. 24.

"It's a good way to meet new people, like other players, or to link back up with them," Lee said of Twitter. "I try not to pay attention to the negative stuff as much, but if it gets too out of hand, that's when I step in and say something, not necessarily something negative, but just to let them know what went on and what was the deal and how things work. I like to fix things without building a big problem. Usually I don't respond at all."

Other athletes, like Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner, a Jim Thorpe Award finalist, and Manziel's teammate, Outland Trophy finalist and offensive tackle Luke Joeckel, avoid Twitter all together.

"Johnny's amazing on that," Joeckel said. "I don't even want to tweet. I'd probably have 1 percent of the followers he has and it wouldn't be that cool."

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