Provo • Before there was Johnny Football, there was Jimmermania.
Having once become a phenomenon of his own as a college athlete, former BYU basketball star Jimmer Fredette can only marvel about the life of Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
“I can relate, because of the fact that there’s this huge hype around him, especially,” Fredette said last week, while staging his charitable foundation’s first Jimmerosity Golf Invitational at Riverside Country Club.
In Provo, Fredette maintained a much lower profile than Manziel and generated no controversy, but he also had experiences of being mobbed by fans in public.
Manziel’s level of attention and scrutiny “is even bigger than mine was,” Fredette said. “His is unbelievable. Every move that he makes is under a microscope.”
Fredette laughed when I reminded him about all the No. 32 jerseys that were sold during the 2010-11 season, when he led BYU to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16. But he’s ambivalent regarding whether college athletes should be paid or allowed to benefit from the use of their likenesses.
“My freshman year, I didn’t have a ton of money,” he said. “That’s just what college kids go through. … That’s what makes you work hard to get to the professional ranks.”
Manziel and former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow are examples of athletes “making so much for the school and not having a chance to profit from it,” Fredette said, “so some guys think it’s time to change that. It’s hard for me to say whether they should or shouldn’t, but it’s definitely going toward that way.”
Other thoughts from Jimmer:
• Entering his third season with the Sacramento Kings, he believes he’s become stronger and more athletic and is hopeful for better things for himself and the reorganized franchise — even with a guard-heavy roster at the moment.
“It’s kind of a new life,” he said. “We have a whole new franchise, and I think that’s what you need, in order to move forward. … I’m sure they’ll make lots of moves, trying to get things into place. Whatever happens, I’m excited.”
• He’s pleased with the impact of the Fredette Family Foundation, with a mission of helping families with programs in Provo, Sacramento and his hometown of Glens Falls, N.Y.
Appreciating his “opportunity” to help, Fredette cited an anti-bullying campaign, Special Olympics and school financial-aid programs among his particular interests. His parents and brother and sister are among the foundation’s directors and an eight-member Utah Community Board provides assistance.