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CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Time for Johnny Manziel to sign in as a team leader

A report suggesting Texas A&M's Heisman Trophy winner demanded cash for his autograph is a more serious issue than other incidents involving the star.

Chris Dufresne

9:47 PM EDT, August 5, 2013

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Let's end the argument over whether Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel has the right to act like any other college student who also happens to have won the Heisman Trophy as a freshman.

Of course he does.

Johnny got into a bar fight and was caught with a fake ID. (Welcome to a large club.)

Johnny sent a tweet saying he couldn't wait to get out of College Station. (Have you ever been there?)

He jetted around the country with Daddy's money to crash parties from Denver to Dover. (As if he's the only spoiled-brat child son from a Texas oil-money family.)

Johnny also was tossed from a frat party at Texas while wearing a Tim Tebow jersey, and he might have had a hangover when he missed his wake-up call for the Manning Passing Academy.

He's just a kid, under enormous pressure, trying to blow off some steam.

The problem is not Manziel's right to act like a kid or a fool. The problem is the full portrait that's forming of a young man seemingly lacking even a base level of accountability or responsibility.

Manziel is not a golfer or tennis player — he's the most important player on his football team.

There's no "i" in t-e-a-m, but there is one in Manziel.

It is hard to believe Manziel would be so brazen and cavalier as to accept money for signing autographs.

"My teammates know where my heart's at, where my head's at," Manziel said at Southeastern Conference media day in July. His teammates now have the right to wonder.

It doesn't matter what you think of silly NCAA rules. The point is not whether players should be paid for signing autographs. That's a matter to be settled in court.

If the rule says you can't accept money for signing your own autograph, well, that's the rule and you can't do it.

An ESPN report suggesting Manziel demanded cash for his signature is by far the most serious charge because it jeopardizes his eligibility.

For now, these are just allegations from anonymous sources speaking with ESPN, so we'll see how it plays out.

Proving Manziel was paid might be difficult, and there certainly is no imperative financial motive. He comes from a well-off family and is already driving a Mercedes-Benz provided by his father, Paul.

The real puzzler is: Could Manziel really be so inconsiderate and/or clueless?

If the autograph story doesn't stick, people will say it was just another crazy day in Johnny Football's life. However, this is no longer just about the woes of poor, misunderstood Johnny. This is about, among other things, the Texas A&M teammates who have to cover for him every time he dodges a news conference.

Manziel was originally on the player list for Monday's media day at Texas A&M — before the Sunday story broke. His name was taken off the list.

Manziel has gone from causing a stir to being a distraction. His actions are starting to bleed into the regular season.

Texas A&M Coach Kevin Sumlin said Monday he was unaware of the autograph allegations until Sunday evening. Training camp has been thrown into tumult. The school has to decide whether to hold Manziel out of games pending the outcome of an NCAA investigation.

Until then? "We're gonna practice and go ahead as normal and be able to adjust to the facts," Sumlin said.

Except there is no such thing as "normal" anymore in College Station.

Manziel isn't required to be a role model for the public or any of us, but he will have to answer to the players and for the season he is hanging out to dry in the Texas heat.

As a third-year sophomore, Manziel can opt out for the pros after this season, but he certainly isn't exhibiting the kind of leadership the NFL looks for in a quarterback.

He is acting a lot more like Ryan Leaf than Andrew Luck.

It's a free country, so "Johnny Train Wreck" or "Johnny Hancock" can party all night, or season, long.

If he doesn't grow up, though, his best next football option might be in Canada.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com