by Harlan McCarthy, Special to The New Tri-State Defender
Johnny Manziel said he hasn’t been to Memphis since his Heisman Trophy-winning days at Texas A&M. The Aggies flew into Memphis en route to Oxford where they defeated Ole Miss in 2013.
Fast forward to March 2019. Manziel’s professional career has taken many twists and turns since his collegiate glory days. The man called “Johnny Football” was introduced as the newest member of the Memphis Express on Tuesday. He and his new team are hoping this latest comeback attempt produces wins all around.
“I think I’ve found a system that works for me with a support system I’m extremely grateful for,” said Manziel, now 26.
Manziel garnered fame from his breakout freshmen season at Texas A&M. On the football field, there wasn’t much he couldn’t do. After college, the Cleveland Browns made Manziel a first-round draft pick, in hopes that he’d bring new excitement to the franchise.
But his behavior ultimately sabotaged his career. In two NFL seasons, he posted a 2-6 record with a QB rating of 74.4 rating on seven touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Off the field, he probably did too much – specifically, too much partying, too much reckless behavior. He was known to party with the likes of Drake, LeBron James and other celebrities. But he also reportedly showed up to practices smelling of alcohol.
Poor performance combined with his headline grabbing off-field exploits led to Manziel being waived by the Browns in 2016. There were more unflattering headlines to come. He most recently played in the Canadian Football League, where he was released earlier this year. But now, he says he’s putting the main thing first again.
“I got immersed and lost in a bunch of things that only gave me temporary happiness,” Manziel said with Express Head Coach Mike Singletary seated next to him. “This game and what it has done for me has kept joy in my life and made me abundantly happy. I would tell my past to practice self-focus, work and sacrifice.”
In the meantime, Manziel is rediscovering his joy for the game and looking to gel with his new team.
“I want to continue to get better as a football player and learn from the group of guys and coaches here,” he said. “I want to learn how to not only be a great football player, but a better person. I’m working in all aspects of my life to continue that.”
Singletary was uncommitted on whether Manziel would play this weekend, when the Birmingham Iron visit Memphis on Sunday. Express starting QB Zach Mettenberger is injured. But as far as Manziel’s road back, Singletary is on board to help.
“Any opportunity I have to work with anyone who, for whatever reason, has taken a step back in life and they’re trying to figure out how to get it right and wants to get it right. . . I want to be around people like that,” Singletary said. “To me, that’s what life is about. Getting back up.”