When Texas A&M took the field Tuesday afternoon for its second practice
of fall camp, College Station was nearly cloudless.
Players and coaches spread out on the Coolidge Practice Fields, sweating and drilling with the kickoff of the most anticipated season in program history just weeks away.
However, off the field, for the third consecutive day, the eligibility status of the reigning Heisman Trophy winner didn't mimic the Brazos Valley sky.
Things, somehow, got cloudier for Johnny Manziel.
Manziel practiced for the second consecutive day, walking onto the grass and back into the spotlight just hours after another ESPN report linked him to a third autograph broker.
An East Coast autograph broker played two cellphone videos to ESPN apparently showing Manziel signing A&M helmets and memorabilia. The broker said he paid Manziel $7,500 for signing almost 300 items on Jan. 11 and 12 at the Walter Camp Foundation Event in New Haven, Conn.
ESPN reported that the videos include Manziel saying "You never did a signing with me" and that, if the broker were to tell anyone, he would refuse to deal with him in the future. The videos reportedly do not show Manziel accepting any money and were filmed without Manziel's knowledge.
The broker, who said Manziel said he wanted money for new rims for his vehicle, told ESPN that he does not intend to cooperate with the ongoing NCAA investigation of Manziel.
Following practice, at almost 8 p.m., Manziel walked through the McFerrin Indoor Center with his bright cleats in his hand, escorted by a university policemen. He glanced at the media throng to his left and continued in his path, out the door and back into the Bright Complex.
ESPN's Outside The Lines reported Sunday that Manziel allegedly agreed to a "five-figure flat fee" with autograph broker Drew Tieman for signing memorabilia in Miami during Manziel's visit to the site of the 2013 BCS Championship game in January. NCAA bylaw 126.96.36.199 prohibits a player from accepting money for promotion or sale of a product or service.
On Monday, ESPN reported that a second autograph dealer alleged that Nathan Fitch, Manziel's close friend who was hired by his parents to be his personal assistant, told him Manziel wanted payment to sign autographs.
The East Coast broker who emerged Tuesday said that Finch wasn't in Connecticut during the transaction.
A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said during Monday's media day that the team and university was doing its "due diligence to find the facts" regarding Manziel.
He was asked three questions about Manziel immediately when he addressed the media following Tuesday's practice and, each time, deferred to university spokesperson Jason Cook.
"As far as football goes, I can talk to you about all that," Sumlin said. "There's not a whole lot I can say about [Manziel's situation]."
Cook said Sunday that the university doesn't "respond to such questions concerning specific student-athletes."
He was reached Tuesday and said, in a text message, "We do not have any additional information to share at this time."
Autographs and memorabilia is a giant industry that puts college players' eligibility in peril. Manziel isn't the only one under scrutiny. USC launched an investigation into star wide receiver Marquise Lee after some of his autographs had appeared for sale online. USC said Lee did not violate any NCAA rules. The school's compliance office investigated the autographs, decided Lee did not receive payment and cleared him of any wrongdoing.
At last look, Manziel doesn't have the most autographed items for sale on eBay, either. South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney had 241 items to Manziel's 229. Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller has 133 items for sale on eBay, and Alabama quarterback AJ MacCarron has 97 items for sale.
Manziel hasn't spoken to the media since the allegations came to light. Sumlin said Tuesday that he hadn't decided when Manziel would be made available.
A&M continues fall camp at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.
(c)2013 The Eagle (Bryan, Texas)
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Distributed by MCT Information Services
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