He's a personal assistant with the smarts of Turtle. He's got the ill-thought-out dreams of How to Make It in America's Ben Epstein. And he's probably as good to Johnny Manziel as Tyler Durden was to Ed Norton. Meet "Uncle" Nate Fitch, the 20-year-old college dropout who, according to ESPN's half-dozen sources, "helped run a Manziel autograph business, setting up signings, handling logistics. He's the unknown hole at the center of a famous person's scandal, both caught up in events and a driver of those events." In other words, Fitch is the guy who took an already absurd situation—a college quarterback having a fucking personal assistant—to our current off-season soap opera.
Here's how the two are together: Fitch and Manziel were friends in high school, and since the NCAA allows pre-existing relationships, he began working full-time for Manziel after the Heisman win. This apparently worried Manziel's family. And others around Manziel thought the whole thing was pretty weird: ESPN's article details a sitdown between Fitch and the Aggies' quarterback coach, Jake Spavital, who was totally confused as to why they were talking with each other.
Now Nate may or may not have co-operated with autograph brokers to sell Manziel's signature. And a scandal has broken, driving Nate underground. But even though he's in "hiding," he's still the key to the whole case:
All of the allegations seem wound together, complicated. But really, the whole thing is fairly simple. Did Johnny take money for autographs or know they would ultimately be sold? If not, then he can go about his life. If he did, then his future essentially comes down to a single question: Is Uncle Nate smarter than the NCAA?
"They're gonna have a hard time proving it," a former NCAA enforcement official told ESPN. "Where's the proof?"
James Garland is the lead NCAA investigator, and he has been trying to get people to talk for months. He's part of an investigative office that has been depleted due to a growing number of departures. The NCAA can compel Manziel to cooperate, and maybe even Fitch, but if everyone sticks to their stories, the autograph brokers stay silent, and if Nate covered his tracks, then all this smoke won't lead Garland back to a fire.
Was Turtle ever smart enough to cover his tracks?