A divided Kerrville Independent School District board of trustees dealt a setback to a private group looking to donate and install a bronze statue of Tivy High School football star Johnny Manziel.
Despite assurances that private funding would pay for the proposed 6-foot statue, trustees seemed skeptical about the timing of the monument — just nine years removed from when Manziel won the Heisman Trophy at Texas A&M.
Led by Mindy Wendele, the group presented a plan to commission a statue, some scholarships and other improvements — estimated to cost $200,000. Wendele told trustees that the group, which included Tivy High grad and NFL player Mike Dyal, had not begun fundraising for the statue, but they were confident they would raise it locally and from the broader Texas A&M fan base.
Sculptor Eric Slocombe presented a model of the statue — a slender representation of a 17-year-old Manziel holding a football and his Tivy Antler helmet. In his playing career, Manziel was one of the most electrifying players in Texas football history. While he was a sensational talent at Texas A&M, Manziel’s professional career was a bust and riddled with off-the-field problems.
Manziel had drug and alcohol-related issues, a domestic violence charge in 2016 and bouts in rehab. However, when Manziel appeared last year for his induction into the Tivy High School Hall of Fame, he was removed from his playing career and admitted to battling bipolar depression.
After his induction, Manziel spent nearly two hours signing autographs with fans — mostly boys. He later played catch with them. It was that appearance that inspired Wendele’s effort.
However, trustees seemed uncomfortable with the timing, and Trustee Greg Peschel questioned Manziel’s trajectory and what would happen if more problems arose. Michelle Manziel, Johnny’s mother, said initially that her family wasn’t sure they wanted a statue. They came around to it after Johnny Manziel tearfully thanked his Tivy coaches during Hall of Fame ceremonies.
“This is about a high school player,” Michelle Manziel said. “It’s encouraging and special.”
However, a majority of the trustees said they were on the fence about making a decision. Trustee Jack Stevens said he struggled to support the plan.
“I think the timing is off,” Stevens said. “I watched him play. He was phenomenal.”
Stevens’s concerns focused on the cost and the community’s perception of the statue.
“I’d love to see this happen in the not-too-distant future, but it’s early yet to sell this to the community,” Stevens said. Equal in their unease were Michael Tackett and Curtis Finley. The three voted to table the discussion until later, but that motion failed.
Trustee Dr. David Sprouse motioned to deny the donation of the statue, but that failed by a 5-2 vote. Finally, Peschel moved to accept the gift, but the vote was rejected, 4-3.