Franklin vs. Manziel throwback Friday for Argos and Ticats

The Argonauts claim to know little about new Hamilton Tiger-Cats backup quarterback Johnny Manziel, but they do have someone on board who once outshone Johnny Football during his brilliant college career.

James Franklin, who is also battling for a backup quarterback job, played perhaps the defining game of his NCAA career with Missouri in November 2013, when he led the Tigers to an upset 28-21 win over Manziel’s Texas A&M Aggies in the SEC semifinals.

Now, with the Argos and Hamilton set to open the CFL pre-season Friday night in Hamilton, the quarterbacks will meet again, both trying to establish a foothold with new teams.

“(Manziel) said some nice things to me after the game, and we’ll leave that on the field, but nice stuff — like good job, great game, we’ll see you in the future,” Franklin said after the Argos’ walk-through at York University on Thursday.

Franklin was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 2014, but released the same year and headed north, finding work as a backup in Edmonton for three seasons. He signed a two-year deal with the Argos this off-season and is in a training camp battle with McLeod Bethel-Thompson to fill the role of Ricky Ray’s backup.

Manziel’s route was nothing like that. After being drafted by Cleveland in the first round, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner showed only glimpses of his collegiate brilliance. Allegations of assault by his then-girlfriend and reports of excessive partying led to the Browns releasing him. With no other NFL options, he landed in Hamilton after long negotiations with the Tiger-Cats — who held his CFL rights — led to a deal in mid-May.

Franklin believes Manziel when he says he’s a changed man.

“I think he’ll do well,” Franklin said. “He’ll say he had an opportunity and that he didn’t make the most of it, but I’m pulling for him. I’m trying to do as good a job as I can here, and if he says he’s changed I believe him … and I’m looking forward to seeing him play.”

Both QBs are expected to see action Friday night at Tim Hortons Field, with Franklin starting the second half, according to Argos head coach Mark Trestman.

Incumbent Jeremiah Masoli will start for Hamilton but isn’t expected to stay in for long. Manziel would follow, and Hamilton coach June Jones said his new pivot will “see a lot of plays.”

For Manziel, training camp has been a bit like the old days, with large media scrums following his every move and dozens of fans and autograph seekers at training camp at McMaster University, clamouring for high-fives and signatures.

While he hasn’t taken a snap in a game since Dec. 27, 2015, his celebrity has not cooled. He announced his Hamilton signing to 2.2 million followers on Twitter (the Tiger-Cats account has 143,000). He has also signed on to do a weekly podcast dubbed The Comeback SZN with Barstool Sports.

Manziel says he feels like he’s making daily progress in learning the CFL game, in perhaps his last chance to play as a pro, and downplays any pressure to keep his career alive.

“Go out take a snap and have some fun,” he told reporters in Hamilton this week. “There’s no pressure. There’s no: Go out and throw 10 TDs. Just, it’s football.”

In that SEC semifinal in 2013, Manziel couldn’t quite push the Aggies past Franklin, who completed 18 of 28 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns, along with almost 100 yards on the ground. In other words, Franklin did what Manziel had been doing as one of the most dangerous dual threats in the NCAA.

“He’s going to run the ball,” Franklin said. “He’s talented — we all know that — so it’s going to be interesting to see him play again.”

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