Johnny Manziel was one of the most electric college football players in history. His time as a member of the Texas A&M Aggies will forever be remembered for his accomplishments on the field as well as his controversies off of it.
Even though the Cleveland Browns may regret drafting him, he was the talk of football for years, whether you loved him or loved rooting against him.
It should not come as a surprise that Manziel was a dominant player in high school football as well. He played at Kerrville Tivy High School in Kerrville, Texas, and that is where he began to make a name for himself.
Johnny Manziel’s High School Statistics
At Tivy, quarterback Johnny Manziel initially made the varsity team as a wide receiver and actually would not start his first game at quarterback until his sophomore year. Even then, he performed in part-time duties, throwing 11 touchdowns against five interceptions. He was much more useful on the ground, scoring an additional 15 rushing touchdowns.
His junior year is where things started to take off: he had a combined 55 touchdowns and was named the All-San Antonio Area Offensive Player of the Year as well as a Texas MVP award. By this time, he was being recruited heavily by schools like Baylor, Colorado State, Iowa State, Oregon, Rice, and Stanford, in addition to the Aggies.
His senior season made Manziel a legend: he threw for 3,609 yards, had a 44:5 touchdown-to-interception ratio, and ran for another 1,674 yards, reaching paydirt 30 more times as a rusher. He also caught a touchdown pass. His 75-touchdown performance helped Tivy make the playoffs with ease.
Tivy head coach Mark Smith was well aware of the talent Manziel had, saying that fans would travel from Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio just to see the quarterback play. Beat writers were impressed, too. Manziel was named District 28 4-A MVP once more and received San Antonio Express-News’s Offensive Player of the Year honors.
His 2010 season earned him the designation of being that year’s Mr. Texas Football. His ability to outrun defenders at will while also having a fantastic arm made him the ideal dual-threat for the high school and college levels, and after graduation, he would reach new heights of fame in College Station.
Shockingly, over 5,000 total yards in a season did not elevate his recruitment score; he remained a three-star prospect.
Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M
After a redshirted year in 2011, Manziel became the starting quarterback of the Aggies in 2012 and broke onto the national stage. His performance in an upset victory over Alabama made him the frontrunner for multiple awards, and he ended up generating over 4,600 yards of offense, surpassing the SEC records set by Tim Tebow and Cam Newton.
The signal-caller won the Heisman Trophy that season; it was the first time it was awarded to a freshman in history. With ESPN’s constant coverage of what the quarterback was up to, “Johnny Football” had arrived. The season ended with a cherry on top after Texas A&M decisively beat Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl.
During the offseason, Manziel had garnered a reputation for partying frequently. In June 2012, before the legend began, he was arrested on three misdemeanor charges. He often spoke to Tivy offensive coordinator Julius Scott for guidance, but the advice wasn’t always adhered to. He became embroiled in controversy when he allegedly signed autographs for money in 2013, which is a major NCAA violation. He was suspended for the first half of his team’s first game, and while nothing came of that incident afterward, it was a harbinger of things to come.
Johnny Manziel’s Professional Career
Sensing his time at Texas A&M was over, Manziel declared for the NFL Draft and was selected in the first round by the Cleveland Browns in 2014. Head coach Mike Pettine helped make the decision traded up to select Manziel, a decision criticized when it occurred and derided since.
Manziel struggled with his first taste of NFL football, and players began to question his work ethic. Regardless, he got into the 2015 season earlier than anticipated when starter Josh McCown got hurt against the New York Jets. Despite one glowing performance against the rival Pittsburgh Steelers, the rest of the season was a disappointment: not only did Manziel only throw for seven touchdowns against five interceptions, but he was also benched after posts on social media showed him partying when the Browns were on their bye week. The final straw was when he traveled to Las Vegas despite having a concussion.
The Browns are a disaster of a football team year in and year out, and wanting to get out of their commitment to Manziel, released him in March 2016 after it was reported that Manziel was involved in a domestic violence incident with his girlfriend.
Manziel then went to the CFL, signing with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats before the 2018 football season. He was traded to the Montreal Alouettes, struggled mightily, and then released a year later when he breached his contract. Following a brief pit stop with the Memphis Express of the AAF, he retired from professional football.
Johnny Manziel is an unfortunate example of the question, “what could have been?” He was a dynamic runner and passer at the amateur level, but he was unable to remain in the professional game for more than five years.
His high school coach said that he no longer recognized the Manziel he used to know. Even though the former superstar’s playing days are behind him, it is enjoyable to watch him dominate high school and college football the way that he was able to.
Only he and Jameis Winston were able to win the Heisman Trophy as freshmen, an accomplishment that cannot be taken away from him. Aggies fans will always be appreciative of the performances, and Manziel has that to reflect on.