Quarterback Johnny Manziel gave a long interview to TSN 1050 in Toronto on Tuesday and while the broad themes of redemption and resurrection remained at the fore, there were a couple of new details. It’s become increasingly clear that Manziel has put a lot of thought into how, exactly, he went from winning the Heisman Trophy, to a first-round NFL draft pick to out of football in a remarkably short period of time.
The whole thing is pretty interesting – and long – and judging from the reaction on social media, Manziel is winning people over with his candour and humble approach to his opportunities.
Here are eight takeaways from the interview, which can be found here:
1. He has a pretty good understanding of how it all went wrong. Manziel told a couple of interesting anecdotes about how sudden fame and fortune changed him – and not for the better.
“My first year at Texas A&M, nobody knows who I am, I’m red-shirting. Fast forward eight months later, I’m on stage in New York accepting the Heisman Trophy. A month later, I’m going on Drake’s website buying his hoodie and I get an email coming out of class, and somebody from his company has emailed me and pretty much started my friendship with Drake. Within a span of eight months, I went from meeting the only person I wanted to meet on my bucket list, coming to Toronto becoming friends with this individual and still have a good relationship with him to this day. So many things like that happened in my life that were beyond my wildest dreams.”
“First day I turn pro, I do a McDonald’s commercial with LeBron and four other top-tier athletes. It got to the point where I was just blown away by it all. After I got drafted and things started happening in my personal life, I stopped focusing on football itself and more what it was doing around me, focusing on the VIP access, let me try and do this because this is what I think is going to make me happy.
“So I did it all in 2016. I had the access, I had the means to do it and I didn’t know where I was at in my football career. I really questioned whether I loved the game anymore. I sit two years later and look back… watching guys go out and flourish, watching other guys get a chance to play ball and do something that, deep down, I know that I love, it’s been hard for me. It makes me take a different approach to The Spring League. I get to go into a locker room, talk crap with the boys, I get to have fun doing something that I’ve missed for two years and I appreciate it.
“At a certain point in time after I got drafted, I expected certain things and I let everything get to my head. Definitely the fame, definitely the money change how I was on a daily basis and I have a lot of regrets with that.”
2. Football is a big part of how Manziel is dealing with his mental health issues.
“People have asked me if I feel that getting back into football so quick is going to be detrimental in my personal life and I say no. When I wake up every day and I throw and then I go to the gym, that’s a solid day of work and it makes me happy in what I’m doing. it gives me something to look forward to the next day rather than sitting on the couch and watching Netflix like I was doing for two years. It helps me get out of the depression that I’ve been in in the past. It’s good for me.”
3. He’s aware of the Johnny Manziel hype machine – and that it may impact his opportunities going forward.
“I’m not going to be able to dumb down the hype… Texas A&M we left a lasting impression on college football, whether it was my style of play, the way I played or whatever the case may be. That hype doesn’t die down. I’m in The Spring League here that nobody has ever heard of… still the cameras the first day, still all the other stuff that it’s like I never left football. I can’t help that. I hope that’s not held against me.”
4. He’s come to understand that putting in the work is going to be a key to his success – and that he wasn’t as committed to it early in his career.
“When I got to the NFL I’ll be the first to tell you it didn’t go the way I envisioned. I finally saw that I have been blessed with enough physical talent to be able to roll out of bed and go play football at a high level. Was there work put in at high school and college, of course. But when I got to the highest level, I didn’t know what it took. I didn’t know how to study the playbook, I didn’t know how to watch film. I feel like in my second year in Cleveland I started to learn from the guy in Josh McCown, who taught me how to be a pro so I feel like I have a good blueprint and understand the work it takes.
“Now I’m able to look back and see why guys like LeBron, why guys like Tom Brady, why the top athletes are the way that they are: yes, they are incredibly talented but at the end of the day, it’s the work they put in day in and day out focusing on their craft that makes them good. I truly believe that.”
5. He’s talked to Doug Flutie about playing in the CFL and has heard the comparisons.
“Everybody I’ve talked to has said my style would fit. A lot of people come up to me and refer to Doug Flutie. I talked to Doug Flutie about this and he has said great things about the game, how much fun he had, how awesome it was.”
6. He knows he’ll have to earn a job if he comes to Hamilton and that some of the things his agent said in the early going may have rubbed people the wrong way.
“For me, it’s going to be about paying my dues in the building. I remember walking in the locker room in Cleveland for the first time: the perception of who I am and meeting me are two completely different things. I feel like I’m a lot different than that perception and I feel like a lot of my ex-teammates will say that. But I realize that with some of the ways things have gone contract-wise, the way things have gone with talks that may make it seem that I’m down playing the league we’re thinking that I’m going to come up there and do very well at the very beginning – still a right that I have to earn. If I get to Hamilton, looking at the situation, Jeremiah played very well last year. I watched the games, I kept in touch and started paying attention.”
7. He named dropped some CFL quarterbacks and said the style of play suits him.
“If the opportunity does come and that’s the path that I do choose, I’m excited for it. The wider field… you see guys having success who have been in – Bo Levi Mitchell for example, who was at SMU, I watched him throw the ball all around in college, that style of play is fitting him very well. A guy like James Franklin, same way. A guy like Jeremiah Masoli, same way. I feel like guys that are doing well up there right now are guys who have been in similar systems to me in college.
“I don’t want anything handed to me and that’s the main point I want to make. I don’t expect anything. I expect to be treated like another one of the guys up there even though media-wise and some of the other ways I won’t be.”
8. He’s never been to Hamilton but didn’t take a shot at it when he had the chance. One of the Toronto radio hosts took a veiled jab at Hamilton, calling it “a different town” but Manziel said that’s just fine.
“I have a couple of people that I know that are from Hamilton that I met in Toronto so I vetted it out a little bit. I know it’s not Toronto. I obviously don’t know the city, I’ve never been there but nonetheless, that’s good for me. I don’t need all the excess stuff. If I come up there, it will be a full commitment… I’m up there to play football. That will be my focus if I end up in Hamilton.”
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