This Day In Sports: Back when he was ‘Johnny Football’

December 8, 2012, 10 years ago today: Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel becomes the first freshman ever to win the Heisman Trophy after a remarkable season in which he also became the first freshman to throw for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000. Manziel became the frontrunner for the honor after he led the Aggies to a 29-24 road upset of top-ranked Alabama. It was coach Kevin Sumlin’s first season at Texas A&M—and the school’s first year in the SEC—so it rocked a lot of worlds. After winning the Heisman, Manziel and the Aggies capped the season with a 41-13 rout of old Big 12 foe Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl.

Manziel’s sophomore season wasn’t quite as good, but he still finished fifth in 2013 Heisman Trophy voting. He then departed early for the NFL and was the 22nd overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, going to the Cleveland Browns. “Johnny Football” didn’t even make it to his first regular season game before being disciplined by the NFL; he was fined $12,000 for an obscene gesture during an exhibition game.

Manziel would play sparingly for Cleveland over the next two seasons—derailed by ineffectiveness and turnovers on the field and attitude and behavior problems off of it. Late in the 2015 season, Manziel was poised to become the Browns starter until video surfaced of Manziel partying hard during the team’s bye week. An investigation into domestic violence by Manziel was the last straw, and Cleveland released him in March, 2016.

Nobody else would sign Manziel. For two years. He finally got another chance in the CFL in 2018, first with the Hamilton TigerCats and then with the Montreal Alouettes. Manziel even played in the short-lived Alliance of American Football with the Memphis Express in 2019. And then he found himself out of the sport. Manziel just turned 30 years old on Tuesday. His predecessor at Texas A&M, Ryan Tannehill, is still a starting quarterback in the NFL today.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)

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