Former college football standout Johnny Manziel has signed with a start-up indoor football league in his most recent effort to make a return to professional football.
The league, known as the Fan Controlled Football league (or FCF) offers an innovative way for fans to interact with the sport, allowing those that tune in the ability to control everything, from calling plays to deciding roster changes.
Manziel shared his excitement, crediting the intended nature of the league as the pulling factor which drew him back to the sport, saying: “The more I heard about what this was going to be, the more I felt it was going to be something that was just very fun. It’s going to be very fan-oriented and something I could get behind without being extremely, extremely, extremely serious, the way that my football career has been in the past.”
But while the idea of a fan-controlled league is exciting, more so is the prospect of being able to watch one of football’s biggest personalities take the field once more.
Manziel’s illustrious career began at Texas A&M, where in 2012 he became the first true freshman to win the Heisman trophy after throwing for 3,706 yards, 1,410 rushing yards and 47 total touchdowns to 9 interceptions, while guiding the Aggies to an 11-2 record, breaking numerous long-standing records, and drawing comparisons to other college football stars, such as Tim Tebow and Cam Newton.
Though both the Aggies and Manziel himself had less to write home about in the season that followed, and despite his run-in with the NCAA, little stood in the way of the quarterbacks hopes to play in the pros.
After three years at Texas A&M, Manziel made the decision to forego his senior year and declared for the draft. With such an impressive resume, and despite his reputation causing many scouts to caution NFL offices – Manziel was drafted in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns.
However, his career was short lived. Manziel would have to wait until his second year in the league before throwing a touchdown, and that season would prove to be his final in the league, as he was cut in March 2016 amid a struggle with substance abuse, and domestic abuse accusations.
But the FCF is far from his first attempt at a return to the sport. Since being cut by Cleveland, ‘Johnny Football’ signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the CFL in May 2018 but did not see a single snap before being traded to the Montreal Alouettes.
Much like with the Browns, it was not meant to be. Early in 2019, with his first season in the books – having thrown four interceptions in the first half of his debut and spending four games side-lined with a concussion – the Alouettes were forced to release Manziel, after he violated terms of his contract.
Barred from the CFL, Manziel made a move to the AAF in a last-ditch attempt to keep his career alive and signed with the Memphis Express. He made his debut in March 2019, but again he suffered a concussion in just his second game as he attempted to save an interception from being returned to the house. Just three days later, lack of funds forced the AAF to abandon their season.
With the talent of NFL prospects increasing exponentially each year, it is difficult to imagine Manziel ever managing to work his way back to the league, despite the reputation he has created. But, in signing with the FCF, Manziel will hope to guide the attention onto the man he has become, and away from that for which he has become best known – for being one of the biggest flops in NFL history.
While Manziel himself has said this is not a serious comeback attempt, there is little doubt that fans will share his modesty regarding the situation, and many will not be able to help themselves from imagining the great ‘Johnny Football’ in the spotlight once more.
Though, as much as fans would like to see Manziel lighting up defenses – and be it that this may never truly be seen again – fans can at least be comforted that this is a sign that the previously troubled Manziel has found his feet and is back on the right track.
Manziel said: “I wake up with a smile on my face way more than I used to in the past, when people would have said that I had everything. It’s funny how life works sometimes. You have everything and you can be upset, and when you have a lot less, you can be way happier. I’m at a point in my life where I’m 28 years old and I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing moving forward and trying to re-create an identity, and that’s what the past year has been about for me.”