Johnny Manziel to return to pro football in startup league

By Matt Johnson
Mar 20, 2019; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Express quarterback Johnny Manziel looks on during the game between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Houston Rockets at FedExForum. Memphis won 126-125. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Johnny Manziel is eyeing a return to football, just months after the former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL Draft bust seemingly ruled out returning to the gridiron.

Manziel, the No. 22 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, hasn’t played organized football since 2019 for the Alliance of American Football. However, after stepping away from the game, it appears the 28-year-old now wants to return.

Johnny Manziel signs with Fan Controlled Football

Updated: Wednesday, Dec. 30 at 11:10 AM EST

ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert reported on Manziel’s return to the gridiron, yet he doesn’t sound like someone who’s aspiring to reaching a higher level of football at this juncture, though.

Fan Controlled Football is a startup that features 7-on-7 games where fans call the plays and are in charge of building rosters. Here’s some of what Manziel had to say about joining:

“It’s going to be very fan-oriented and something I could get behind without being extremely, extremely, extremely serious, the way that my football career has been in the past. […] Life gives you opportunities sometimes to do something that you would still like to do if it was in a different capacity. […] They don’t want me to change who I am or anything else. They want to come out, put a good product out and be fun with it.”

Johnny Manziel on signing with Fan Controlled Football

Apparently the league will grant fans access to the athletes in a very engaging way through social media and other means, making Manziel’s appeal obvious in that regard. According to the ESPN report, games will be live streamed on Twitch from Atlanta and played on a 50-yard field.

It’s certainly an interesting venture, and having Manziel’s support means the fledgling league will have legs at least at the start. Whether this league blossoms into something longer-term or reignites Manziel’s football career remains to be seen.

Johnny Manziel in ‘serious talks’ to resume football career

Ever since Manziel’s NFL career came to an end in 2015, the young quarterback has sought an opportunity to prove himself. He bounced around the Canadian Football League (2018) and AAF (2019), before admitting in June that his football career is in the past.

According to TMZ Sports, Manziel is closing in on a deal with the Fan Controlled Football league. The FCF, which will be indoor football, is reportedly set to launch in Feb. 2021.

There will be four teams in the FCF, all of which are owned by prominent figures. The Glacier Boyz are co-owned by Quavo, Richard Sherman and YouTube star Donald De La Haya, known as Deestroying. The Zappers are co-owned by Bob Menery and MLB pitcher Trevor May. The Beasts are co-owned by Marshawn Lynch, Mike Tyson and Miro. Lastly, Greg Miller and Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler co-own the Wild Aces.

Manziel is reportedly closing in on a deal to join the Zappers and he would likely become the league’s top quarterback and its biggest star.

Johnny Manziel stats and a football career that fizzled out

At Texas A&M, Johnny Manziel became a football legend. Taking over for Ryan Tannehill as a relative unknown, he had to earn the starting job. In a matter of weeks, he turned into a household name.

In his first season, Manziel racked up 3,706 passing yards, with a 26/9 TD/INT ratio and 155.3 quarterback rating. On the ground, he delivered some of the best rushing statistics we’ve seen from a college quarterback. In his first collegiate season, Manziel accounted for 1,410 rushing yards and 21 scores.

He took home practically every award he could in that 2012 season. Manziel was named the Heisman Trophy winner, Davey O’Brien Award recipient and received the Manning Award. In addition, he was named the AP’s Player of the Year and was a consensus All-American.

Manziel was even better as a passer in 2013. He completed 69.9% of his passing, setting career-highs in passing yards (4,114), yards per attempt (9.6), touchdowns (37) and quarterback rating (172.9). He also posted 759 rushing yards and nine rushing scores that year.

After Cleveland selected Manziel with the No. 22 overall pick in 2014, things went downhill fast for one of the biggest college football stars during his era. He played in 14 games, eight starts, posting a 2-6 record with a 7/7 TD/INT ratio, 74.4 quarterback rating and completed just 57% of his pass attempts. In the end, he finished fifth for the 2013 Heisman Trophy.

With Manziel facing a domestic violence charge in 2016, the Browns released their former first-round pick on March 11, 2016. He would never get another shot in the NFL after that, with his poor play and off-field issues pushing teams away.

Manziel bounced around the CFL with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Montreal Alouettes. Across eight games, he threw for 1,290 yards with five touchdowns and seven interceptions.

The Alouettes released him in 2019 after violating the terms of his CFL contract, reportedly missed multiple required meetings with a therapist. He eventually signed with the AAF but played in just two games before it folded.

After years of making headlines for all the wrong reasons, he has largely kept a lower profile and avoided any more legal troubles. With his life seemingly turned around, perhaps the FCF could be perfect for Johnny Manziel.