Johnny Manziel is still playing football, with a new perspective.
The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner and first-round bust will make his season debut Saturday in Fan Controlled Football on a team that features Pro Football Hall of Famer Terrell Owens.
It’s Manziel’s second season in his third league since his last game in the NFL in 2015. Manziel, selected 22nd overall by the Browns in the 2014 NFL draft, played two tumultuous seasons in Cleveland and made more headlines for his troubles off the field, including one stint in rehab and a domestic violence charge that led to a dismissal agreement with prosecutors.
But the 29-year-old Manziel seems more mature.
“I learned way more through the downfall than I ever did through the rise on the way up,” Manziel told The Associated Press. “So, I look back and for a while looked at my life in a way that I reflected and kind of had regret on. And I don’t feel that way anymore about the way my story went. I got an amazing opportunity to go to Texas A&M, to get drafted in the NFL. And, that career didn’t go the way exactly I wanted to, but I learned a lot about life through that journey up and through that journey down.
"I’m very grateful for where I’m at in my life right now, and I can look back and say I’m at peace completely with all of my football career. For me, it was fun. I got to live an amazing journey in the game of football. It introduced me to a numerous amount of people all over the world. So, I’m thankful for my ride and continue to try and be involved in the game in some way, shape or form.”
Sohrob Farudi, co-founder and CEO of FCF, appreciates Manziel’s personal growth.
“I have nothing but respect for Johnny and the way he’s handled himself with us,” Farudi said. “I’m really happy that he has found that peace with what has happened and is looking forward.”
Manziel played in the Canadian Football League and the Alliance of American Football in 2018-19 before joining the FCF Zappers last year. He started eight games for the Browns, going 2-6 with seven touchdown passes and seven interceptions in 2014-15.
“I know the mistakes I made the first time and I know that I don’t really want to be a repeater of those mistakes,” Manziel said of his off-field issues. “So for me, I’ve learned a lot. Now, did you actually learn if you’re not implementing different change in your life moving forward? No, you didn’t really learn anything.
"So for me, a lot about the way that I carry myself now, my attitude about life and my outlook on life, I feel like I ooze off on to other people. It’s really your life to live and your life only. And you know, I live mine every day in a way that I want to that makes me happy and I feel like I give that aura off in my in my everyday encounters.”
Manziel is excited about playing with the 48-year-old Owens, who caught a TD pass in his first game last week. Fan Controlled Football allows fans to call offensive plays and vote on rules. Marshawn Lynch, Austin Ekeler, Richard Sherman and Dalvin Cook own teams in the league. Manziel’s squad takes on Sherman’s Glacier Boyz on Saturday in Atlanta.
“He looks exactly the same as he does five, 15 years ago,” Manziel said of T.O. “The guy’s a legend.”
Though it’s been seven years since Manziel left Cleveland, the Browns hadn’t found a franchise quarterback until acquiring Deshaun Watson. Now, they’re looking to trade Baker Mayfield, the No. 1 overall pick in 2018.
Manziel can understand what Mayfield is going through.
“I try and stay out of a lot of the Cleveland drama and what surrounds the Browns, but being a friend of Baker and having a bunch of mutual friends, we do spend a little bit of time together here and there,” Manziel said. “He’s got a good head on his shoulders. I think he’s got a lot of his career left ahead of him, and he’s going to get himself in a situation just based on the fact that Cleveland doesn’t want him anymore, obviously, with decisions they’ve made. He’s going to land on his feet and I think he’ll end up somewhere where he can be successful. I wish him nothing but the best.”
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