Five years ago, Johnny Manziel was just a south Texas, high school football hero. Now he is a 23-year-old who desperately needs help.
Nonetheless, he dominated in high school. During his time at quarterback for Tivy High School, he racked up 153 touchdowns and accolades galore. While his high school career was successful, he was not highly recruited.
His most notable offers were from Oregon, Stanford and Texas A&M, but those were the only top-tier programs to offer him. The University of Texas, the school he grew up rooting for, did not recruit him at all, according to their then-head coach, Mack Brown.
From there on, Manziel sky-rocketed to national stardom. Many college football fans were introduced to him when he helped A&M topple Alabama during the peak of their current dynasty, in Tuscaloosa. The play below became iconic.
That play was Johnny Manziel’s “Heisman Moment.” He made similar, jaw-dropping, Houdini-type scrambling plays throughout the rest of his career at A&M, but none were bigger than that. It even earned him the nickname “Johnny Football.”
All of his college success culminated with winning the Heisman Trophy and becoming a first round pick of the Cleveland Browns, but throughout that time Johnny was also making off-field headlines.
Before he ever started a game for the Aggies, he was arrested for disorderly conduct and possession of a fictitious driver’s license. In 2013, after he won the Heisman, he followed that up with departing early from the Manning Passing Academy for allegedly over-sleeping and getting kicked out of a University of Texas fraternity party.
He was later suspended by Texas A&M and the NCAA for an “inadvertent violation” of NCAA rules due to an autograph controversy.
He was also spotted at a number of NBA games during his time at A&M and afterwards. The least you can say is that Manziel knew how to find the spotlight. None of these incidents, separately or combined, are all that worrisome when you consider he was just a college kid. The issue is, those are not the half of it.
After successfully flying under the radar for most of his rookie season, in February 2015 he checked himself into a rehabilitation facility. Then during the 2015 NFL season, while the Browns were hoping he would develop into their starting quarterback, images of him partying and taking a mid-season trip to Vegas surfaced. Those lead to his demotion to third-string quarterback and the Browns eventually released him from his contract earlier this year. Unfortunately for Manziel, getting cut from Cleveland was not rock-bottom.
Since the beginning of 2016 he has been indicted by a Dallas grand jury after being accused of assaulting his girlfriend, he’s had two agents quit representing him and he’s lost his contracts with his marketing agency and Nike.
Both Manziel’s attorney and father are on record expressing their concerns for Johnny, who they believe is suffering from drug problems.
Johnny Football has gone from the biggest college football star since Matt Leinart to an NFL pariah. Now, it would be more shocking to see Manziel practicing on a football team than see him taking another mug shot.
While Johnny’s football career is almost surely over, hopefully his aspirations for success do not die with it. Johnny needs to know that just because he will never be the football player he dreamed of, he should not stop dreaming. He could have a long, prosperous life ahead of him, but he cannot do that from behind bars. He is no longer Johnny Football. He is just Johnny, and Johnny needs to turn it around.