The CFL received an unprecedented level of coverage from the United States in 2018 when Johnny Manziel signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Jeremiah Masoli had established himself as the team’s franchise quarterback the season prior, passing for 3,177 yards, 15 touchdowns, and five interceptions after taking over the starting role from Zach Collaros.
Though the pair were engaged in a heated battle for the spotlight, Masoli always felt as though Manziel was trying to be helpful.
“While he was in the QB room with me, he was super supportive,” Masoli said on the All Ball Podcast.
“He was always trying to help me out, always pointing out things that he did in his past that was kinda similar to what we were doing. It was really some supportive, gelling, brainstorm going on in there. He was there for me.”
Manziel was traded to the Montreal Alouettes in Week 7 with Landon Rice and Tony Washington in exchange for Chris Williams, Jamaal Westerman, and two first-round draft picks.
The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner struggled with his new team, passing for 1,290 yards, five touchdowns, and seven interceptions prior to his off-season release.
“I don’t really know what happened as far as the trade and when he went to Montreal,” said Masoli.
“You could see he could play, but QBs sometimes need that adjustment. You can’t always put a QB’s feet to the fire like that, and if they don’t respond well you can’t just throw them away, neither. You gotta be willing to invest some time.”
Masoli admits that Manziel’s presence provided some pressure, but welcomed the challenge with open arms. He believes that playing alongside a number of talented quarterbacks is one of the reasons he’s developed into one of the CFL’s premier passers.
“It can give you some external motivation for sure. It definitely did for me sometimes, but at the end of the day my job comes from within,” Masoli said. “It’s internal, like my parents instilled when I was a little kid before I even knew any better.”
The 32-year-old had the best season of his CFL career in 2018, completing 378-of-572 pass attempts for 5,209 yards, 28 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions. He was named a divisional all-star and led Hamilton to a victory at home in the East Semi-Final.
“At the end of the day, they could have put Warren Moon in his prime right there but there was nothing moving me from that starting job,” said Masoli. “I was locked in. Period.”