By Derek Gonzales
Johnny Manziel was, at a point in time, the face of college football. His ability to escape the blitz and his knack for making plays with both his arm and feet made him one of the most electrifying players the game has ever seen. It also didn’t hurt that he would often throw up his signature “MoneyMan” sign to the crowd after a touchdown, or celebrate wildly with his teammates after a win.
He was the player that College Football had been missing since Tim Tebow left Florida. That’s what made Johnny Johnny.
After a freshman campaign, which included a Heisman Trophy and Cotton Bowl win over old Big-12 rival Oklahoma, Manziel was having an off-season that was relatively quiet. But in July of 2013, trouble began for Manziel. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, stemming from a bar fight in College Station earlier in 2012. He was also in possession of a fake ID.
Other charges against him were dismissed. Even after taking heat from that incident, he was spotted later that month at the University of Texas partying with fraternities on the Austin campus. Pictures confirmed that the allegations were true.
Manziel went on to win the Heisman trophy the following year, a rare feat for an underclassman. However, success early can often fog a young college student’s head and Manziel was no exception, as he was accused of being paid to sign collectibles, a violation of NCAA rules. Manziel, started his Heisman defense on the bench, being suspended for the first half of A&M’s season opener against Rice.
After a relatively decent last year in which A&M stumbled to an 8-4 record, Manziel declared for the NFL Draft, despite executives being skeptical of drafting Manziel due to his off-field troubles. Many wondered whether his 5’11, 207-pound frame could work in a pro-style offense.
After being passed up by the two Texas teams (Houston and Dallas) in the first round of the draft, the Cleveland Browns came up at pick number 22, in need of a quarterback. The team had gone through 19 quarterbacks since their rebirth in 1999, and had hopes that Manziel could be the quarterback the city and franchise had longed for. He became a Brown, and injected the fans with the hopes that he could replicate the success and wins he had had in College Station.
His first trouble in Cleveland came three weeks after the draft, when he was spotted partying in Las Vegas with New England Patriots’ tight end Rob Gronkowski.
“I’m going to live life to the fullest and be committed to this game.”
Over the next month videos continued to surface of Manziel, and all of them show that he is part of the nightlife scene.
By July Browns’ management grew concerned about Manziel’s behavior, and this was before Browns’ Coach Mike Pettine had named a starting quarterback. Brian Hoyer was the starting quarterback for the majority of the season, but Manziel did see time, and started over Hoyer and played the whole game as the Browns fell to Cincinnati 30-0.
Manziel got hurt the following week, and missed the rest of the season. It appeared Manziel was ready to change his off-the-field habits, entering rehab and moving to a Cleveland suburb, away from his downtown apartment. He returned to the Browns from rehab, and appeared healthy and more focused mentally, and regained the trust of his teammates.
Josh McCown, the savvy 13-year veteran quarterback, was brought in to guide Manziel through the labyrinth of being an NFL quarterback. McCown was named the starter to begin the 2015 campaign, and soon enough, Manziel found himself in trouble. He got into a heated argument with girlfriend and the Cleveland police were called after Manziel sped through traffic with his girlfriend trying to get out of the car.
The NFL decided against disciplining Manziel, and the team announced Manziel as their starter for the rest of the season on November 17. Six days later another video surfaced of Manziel partying during the team’s bye week, and Manziel was demoted to third string, not even suiting up for his last few games with the Browns.
The season came to an end with Cleveland at 3-13 record. Pettine was fired and newly hired Coach Hue Jackson came in without the patience that so many people have shown for Manziel over the last three years, essentially only agreeing to become head coach if the quarterback were released, which is now imminent.
The news of Manziel physically assaulting his girlfriend two weekends ago and leaving her deaf in one ear all but seals his fate in Cleveland. Commissioner Roger Goodell will need to make a decision on how to discipline Manziel for his actions, but that’s the very least of concern. Manziel needs to get a grip on his life before he exhausts his opportunity to be a professional NFL player.
We’ve had the privilege of watching Manziel light up defenses and win games in a way only few special players have, so here’s to hoping he does what it takes to be starting quarterback again.
Derek Gonzales may be reached at email@example.com
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