The latest twist on the Johnny Manziel rollercoaster is probably the least-expected one to date. The Heisman Trophy winner and first-round pick quickly flamed out of the NFL due to substance abuse problems, but he’s now in the news for a more positive reason. Instead of generating another worrying headline about his personal demons, Johnny Football is reportedly re-enrolled at Texas A&M as a student.
Regardless of how you feel as Manziel as a player or a person, this is good news for the 23-year-old, who won the Heisman Trophy as Texas A&M’s quarterback in 2012. There were serious fears about Manziel’s health — so bad that his own father told ESPN that, “Hopefully he doesn’t die before he comes to his senses.” Going back to the school could be the best thing for him.
The Downward Spiral
Manziel left Texas A&M before finishing his degree, as he was seen as a promising draft pick who would likely go in the first round. That came true with his selection by the Cleveland Browns. The 2014 draft was the peak of Manziel’s career, and it was all downhill for the next two seasons.
On the field, Manziel underperformed but showed occasional flashes of promise. Off the field, he got in trouble with the law and ruined his relationship with the team. A stint in rehab during the 2015 offseason seemed to have done the young quarterback good. However, the 2016 season led to even more problems. He was demoted to the third string and skipped team-mandated treatments for a concussion in order to party in Los Angeles.
He was let go by the Browns, fired by his marketing agency, fired by his agent, and seemed to be on a downward spiral. Manziel’s NFL career lasted 15 games. Since that nadir, Manziel has kept a fairly low profile.
During the height of Manziel’s problems, he attracted little sympathy from the fans. People saw him as a spoiled brat who willingly threw away the gift of a starting position in order to party. He didn’t help matters with his repeated drunken appearances and apparent lies to the Browns management.
Such behavior can’t be condoned, but that’s the problem with addiction. It prevents even grounded people from behaving rationally and in their best interest. Manziel never asked for sympathy, and maybe he wasn’t deserving of any. However, he probably didn’t deserve the visceral piling on that everyone from fans to talking heads on TV gave him.
Manziel is taking online courses to finish up his degree in recreation, parks and tourism science. Taking the courses via the internet is probably for the best. If he’s going to be in detox, he’ll need to remove himself from any situation where alcohol could be involved, as stress and anxiety will often lead people to go back to drinking. Being on a college campus right now would be the worst thing for him.
A Possible Return
Manziel returning to the NFL seems to be a far-fetched possibility. He was suspended by the NFL for violating their substance abuse policies, so any team that signs him will miss him for four games. Beyond that, Manziel is too risky to take up a valuable roster spot after burning all those bridges during his two years in the NFL.
Anything is possible in theory. The only thing people love as much as a downfall is a redemption story. However, Manziel seems to be content on trying to live a semi-normal life rather than competing on the highest level.