Johnny Manziel enjoyed his time north of the border playing in the Canadian Football League.
Manziel signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for training camp in 2018 and played one season prior to CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie forcing the Montreal Alouettes to release the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner in February 2019.
“I loved Canada. I got to see every province, go everywhere. The business side and what the actual CFL was it was a little bit ticky-tacky, not what I was used to coming from the Browns,” Manziel said on GOLF’s Subpar podcast.
Manziel starred at Texas A&M University and Cleveland selected him in the first round, No. 22 overall during the 2014 NFL draft. However, he was released in March 2016 after posting a 2-6 record over two tumultuous campaigns. Coming to Canada was Manziel’s Comeback SZN to pro football.
“I loved being back in the locker room again, going through the X’s and O’s, watching film, doing the whole thing. But 12 guys on the field, it’s a different style of football, you get three downs, it’s way different,” Manziel said.
“I think if I went and played my contract in Canada for two years, I don’t think it ever would’ve translated and helped me enough to get back to the NFL.”
In July 2018, Montreal made a blockbuster trade for Manziel to become the Alouettes’ starting quarterback. He completed 64 percent of his passes for 1,290 yards, five touchdowns versus seven interceptions and rushed 29 times for 215 yards ending the season 2-6 as Montreal’s starter.
“Looking back on it I regret not listening to my agent in the sense that going to the AAF and starting there from training camp to Week 1 and doing that for seven weeks until it folded, I think I would’ve been a lot better off and it would have been my only chance to ever get back to the NFL,” Manziel said.
The AAF assigned Manziel to the Memphis Express in March 2019, but he was knocked out of his second game with the team due a concussion. Manziel recorded five completions on eight attempts in two career AAF games for zero touchdowns and one interception and rushed for 38 yards on five carries. That’s the last professional football stint for the celebrity quarterback.
“I had a lot more fun going to a nightclub, walking out with two girls than I did putting the pads on and going and grinding it out. Listen, with the world at my fingertips, I raged. Like, sue me,” Manziel said.
“I’ve had a lot of time to sit back and reflect, a lot of things I wish I would’ve done different, but I had more fun living that famous lifestyle than I did putting in the work. When you look back at it, that’s the whole story. You get out what you put in.”
The NCAA star believed he could dominate the CFL and return to the NFL even though Manziel had fizzled out as a first-round pick in Cleveland. Manziel didn’t truly respect what it was going to take to play at a high level in Canada and, because of it, he was punted out of the league.
“The thing that I’ve learned through time is you get out of the game that you love what you put into it. If you grind 12 hours a day, ten hours a day, whatever it is, and you go put your head down to it and that’s what you focus on, you’re destined for success,” Manziel said.
“But the second you start letting everything else on the outside creep in — not to mention letting what comes in on the outside absorb you more than the game that you love — you’re headed for failure.”
Regardless of his fame and football career, the 27-year-old Manziel has matured and can reflect honestly. There are misconceptions about Manziel’s character — he wishes people would understand him as a person and not just view him as his ‘Johnny Football’ persona.
“I got a good heart, I’m a good dude. I treat people the right way for the most part. Deep down I truly am a good person,” Manziel said.
“I’m human as anybody else is and I have my flaws where I’m going to have a bad day and something’s going to go wrong, I look back on it the next day, reflect and try and be better from it going forward.”