Cody Fajardo saw what Johnny Manziel did and it was imprinted on his mind.
The first pass Manziel threw in the CFL was an interception. Fajardo had the mistake playing on repeat in his head prior to the first start of his career in Week 2 of the 2019 season.
“The whole time I was getting into my first start, all I said was, ‘Do not throw a pick-six on your first play, do not throw a pick-six on your first play,’ because I saw Johnny Manziel do it,” Fajardo told Sportscage radio host Derek Taylor.
“I saw him go in there, his first career start in the CFL, throw a pick-six right to the middle linebacker’s chest and I was like, ‘I do not want to be that guy.’ My first pass in my first start, I airmailed Naaman on the sideline by like 10 yards.”
Manzel was intercepted four times in a blowout 50-11 loss to Hamilton in Week 8 of the 2018 season. It was the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner’s first start in the CFL — he was benched after three quarters.
Fajardo threw for 360 yards with two touchdowns and one rushing in a narrow 44-41 loss to Ottawa in his CFL starting debut.
“I was super protective with that ball, and that’s all it took for me to throw it away. I was questioning if they were going to pull me because I missed one throw,” Fajardo said.
“Then after that I was like, ‘Well, this might be my only ever opportunity to play professional football and get a start, so I’m just going to go out there and have some fun.’ That mindset right there that I changed, helped me settle in and play pretty well.”
Manziel is out of the CFL while Fajardo established himself as one of the rising stars in the three-down league.