What Johnny Manziel&x27s Hometown Knows About Its Favorite Son That We Don&x27t | News, Scores, Highlights, Stats, and Rumors | Bleacher Report

    tyler, texas: the highlight was played over and over again at his uncle’s restaurant on old bullard road. he blinked at the television screen in the living room of his minor league coach’s house. And he repeatedly appeared on a big screen at the golf club where he was a regular as a child, each frame of the clip a reminder of all that is possible for Johnny Manziel.

    here, in the hometown of johnny football, a city of 96,000 located in the heart of oil country, the play from the second quarter of the cleveland browns’ season opener against the new york jets on sunday it has been repeated and revised countless times, dissected like a zapruder football movie. In the 6.1 seconds from snap to whistle, a community of detectives in Tyler have searched for clues in hopes of finding a missing quarterback.

    Reading: Where is johnny manziel from

    Facing a third-and-19 from his own 46-yard line, Manziel, who had entered the game for a shocked Josh McCown, backed up to pass. Pocket collapsed, Manziel stepped back and unleashed a textbook perfect throw. the ball slid in a beautiful spiral through the bright September sky, traversing the arc of a rainbow. It landed in the arms of wide receiver Travis Benjamin, who calmly caught it and ran into the end zone for a 54-yard touchdown.

    This play showed Manziel operating at the height of his footballing prowess, illustrating his arm strength, his accuracy, his quick decision-making, and his ability to keep his eyes on the pitch when under pressure.

    Her uncle, harley hooper, remembers when 12-year-old pop warner johnny would stand in the middle of the field at hubbard high school practice and throw similar bombs from 50 yards that rattled a pole. the rusty goal.

    “johnny has worked so hard to clear his head and solve his personal problems, and now he’s coming back to life,” hooper recalled earlier this month, sitting in the lounge at villaggio del vino, a restaurant in tyler that is co-owner. “He was in a dark place for a while, but never write this kid off. People have been doing that to him his whole life, and he thrives on it.”

    yeah, it was just one play against the jets—manziel would go 13-of-24 for 182 yards with a touchdown and an interception in a 31-10 loss—but it raised a legitimate question: is it johnny manziel, who was a rookie bust and spent 10 weeks in an ohio rehab facility during the offseason, en route to a pro renaissance at age 22?

    with mccown’s status for sunday’s game against the tennessee titans unclear as of tuesday morning, manziel can start against a defense that intercepted jameis winston twice last week and held him at a qbr of 6.7, the lowest among Week 1 starting quarterbacks.

    We know this: There are NFL scouts who still believe in Johnny a lot.

    “It was known throughout the league that when Johnny got out of college he was a party animal,” said a longtime NFC scout. “But now it’s also known throughout the league that johnny has really changed his life. he’s making all the right decisions off the field. and on the field, he’s got the arm of the nfl, he’s got the speed, he’s got the smarts, but just He is 5’11”.

    “Still, I think he has a chance to be very good. He had his ups and downs against the Jets, but there were more good things than bad. There were times when he looked like a young Frank Tarkenton, and that’s the way he should.” model the game after him. to me, he looks like a new and improved johnny.”

    To begin to understand this new version of Manziel, you must travel to the place of his birth. because after the legend of johnny football almost destroyed the person of jonathan paul manziel, tyler was the place that helped him rise again.

    Once upon a time in this dusty East Texas town, there was a boy named Johnny. That’s really how every story about this boy should start, because his life seemed ripped from the pages of a folk tale.

    When he was two years old, johnny could swing his meter-long fisher-price golf club like a miniature ben hogan, repeatedly lobbing plastic golf balls over his backyard pool, over a fence and in the neighbor’s yard. A decade from now, Johnny was always shooting in the mid-’70s at Tyler’s Hollytree Country Club, where the Manziels lived on the 16th hole.

    “Johnny’s hand-eye coordination was amazing,” Hooper said of his nephew.

    when he was nine years old, johnny hit so many baseballs over the left field fence at golden road park in tyler that minor league coaches erected a taller fence that looked like a mini green monster. But in his first appearance at the plate in the newly designated field, Little Johnny, eyes narrowing with determination, smashed a moon shot over the fence. the ball traveled so far that it broke a woman’s bathroom window.

    “johnny was a little guy, but he had big hands and his feet were as big as minor league rubber on the pitcher’s mound,” said drew landes, one of manziel’s minor league coaches. “At age 11, he wore size 12 shoes. He would always forget his shoes and we would have to go to walmart to buy him a new pair.

    “the thing about johnny was he was so intense. he would get so mad at himself if he failed at something, and he was so aggressive. sometimes we had to calm him down, but he showed how desperately he wanted to succeed and beat the guys who were in front of him.”

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    when he was 10, johnny watched the tyler hurricanes pop warner team from the sidelines. michelle manziel wouldn’t let her young son play, fearing he was too fragile, so johnny paced up and down the sidelines during hurricane games, teeth gritted and eyes riveted to the action on the field.

    The following year, Michelle Manziel relented and Johnny became the Hurricanes’ starting quarterback. On the first play of his first practice, his coach, Jacky Lee, called for a bootleg to Johnny’s left.

    “Johnny was running sideways to his left and fired a bullet 15 yards through his body that hit our tight end in the money,” Lee said. “I looked at an assistant and said, ‘This is our referral guy.'”

    but the man to go to didn’t take losing well. Lee remembers seeing him cry after the team lost its first game to a team from South Dallas. “Johnny was hyper-competitive,” Lee said. “It was like soccer was a great outlet for him.”

    The beginning of Manziel’s troubles, according to those who know him best, dates back to the time of his greatest triumph. on nov On October 10, 2012, Manziel and Texas A&M defeated top-ranked Alabama, 29-24, in Tuscaloosa. Manziel was brilliant: The redshirt freshman passed for 253 yards and rushed for another 92 yards as the Aggies snapped the Crimson Tide’s 13-game winning streak.

    After the game, a delighted Michelle tried to hug her son outside the visitors’ locker room, but six state troopers held her at bay.

    In a matter of three dizzying hours, Manziel, who before the season had briefly contemplated transferring if he wasn’t going to be named the starter by coach Kevin Sumlin, had become a national figure.

    “johnny’s life took a complete 180 degree turn after the alabama game,” said j.b. Moss, one of Manziel’s closest friends in Tyler. “Couldn’t even go out to eat at the varsity station because it would cause such a scene. Johnny had never thought of being famous before. But almost overnight he went from a couple thousand Twitter followers to a million.”

    Before the Alabama game, Moss said Manziel had enjoyed a relatively normal and carefree lifestyle, attending Texas Rangers games, golf tournaments and concerts like most college students.

    “He liked to have fun and his family had money, so it wasn’t a big deal,” Moss said. “but then the fame thing happens, and then johnny is having dinner with lebron james and hanging out with drake. he’s still just johnny having fun, but fans started questioning his work ethic. he had to deal with a lot to johnny.”

    “johnny went from being a backup quarterback at a&m to, eight months later, winning the heisman trophy,” said lee, his former pop warner coach. “That’s a lot for a 20-year-old to handle. He certainly had fun, but who could blame him? He was a college kid having fun.”

    edwin duncan, an old family friend in tyler, grew concerned for manziel as he watched the hero cult surrounding johnny football grow.

    “The girls made themselves available to Johnny and the boys wanted to be Johnny,” said Duncan, a vascular surgeon. “when you sit down with johnny, he’s a very polite and discreet guy, someone i promise you’ll like. once he won the heisman trophy, he felt the pressure to measure up. everyone was always looking at him, pointing at him , asking for his autograph. At some point, demons started running through his head.”

    Even as a teenager (the Manziel family moved from Tyler to Kerrville, Texas, when Johnny was 13), Manziel enjoyed a fraternity lifestyle. She once made an agreement with her parents, according to Tim Rohan of the New York Times, that she would not drink in exchange for a new car. (Johnny received a red Camaro the week before the Alabama game in 2012.) At A&M, she received counseling for alcohol problems, according to ESPN magazine’s Wright Thompson.

    Those issues, according to friends and family, continued to plague Manziel after Cleveland selected him in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Manziel bought an apartment in downtown Cleveland and, in the words of one member of the family, “began to hang out with people who didn’t have johnny’s best interests at heart.”

    “Johnny started having a little more fun,” said a family member who requested anonymity. “She got out of control.”

    last Dec. 14, Manziel’s soccer career hit rock bottom. In pregame warmups before his first NFL start against the Bengals, Manziel repeatedly knocked down receivers, often by 10 yards.

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    hooper had flown to cleveland for the game. He watched from the stands as Johnny looked completely confused and outmatched, throwing two interceptions and completing 10 of 18 passes for 80 yards in a 30-0 loss.

    When the final whistle blew, Hooper was consumed with a thought: This is not the Johnny I know.

    “At that point, it became clear that something had to change with Johnny,” Hooper said. “We knew he was struggling.”

    the last domino fell Dec. 27, the day before Cleveland’s final game of the season against Baltimore. Manziel slept through a scheduled appointment with team medical personnel for hamstring treatment. He later admitted, to the team and reporters, that he had been partying until the wee hours of the morning.

    “It was my mistake,” Manziel told reporters. “At the same time, you can sit here and say and talk and say whatever you want, but when your actions don’t reflect that, and you make a conscious decision to put yourself in that position, you stay out late and don’t wake me up the next morning. , that’s going to cause a lot of trouble, so I did it to myself. I did it to myself.”

    A few weeks later, Manziel checked into a pennsylvania rehab clinic for 10 weeks of inpatient therapy. But before she did, she traveled to Tyler one last time for her grandmother’s 70th birthday.

    Surrounded by about 100 members of his family and closest friends, Manziel appeared to be at peace, according to family members. It was clear to everyone in attendance that he had made the decision to change his nightlife.

    “everyone was happy to see johnny so happy,” said a family member. “She threw the party.”

    a few months later, there were more glimpses that old johnny, the johnny with the bright eyes, the easy smile and the quick wit, had returned.

    during his rehab stint, he traveled to tyler for easter. The extended family gathered at Johnny’s parents’ home on the outskirts of town. Johnny was, by all accounts, the sober life of the party.

    He played cards with his beloved grandmother, posed for pictures with family members, and reminisced about the days of youth and freedom in Tyler. He also explained to those he cares about how excited he was to return to Cleveland and make his family proud of him once again.

    “We all saw that the fire was back on Johnny,” said a family member. “johnny made so many people happy when he played baseball at a&m and did things on the field you had to see to believe. now he wants to bring that same joy to cleveland. he’s been through a storm, but he’s coming out the other side.” /p>

    on a bluebird summer morning in tyler, a middle-aged man who declined to give his name sat on top of a lawnmower. he carefully guided the machine over every blade of grass on the hubbard high school athletic field. he drove around the rusty pole, kicked up an earth whirlpool as he skidded over a bald patch of earth, and dodged a massive oak tree with precision.

    He was meticulous in every move he made (he was proud of his craftsmanship) and for good reason: this ground, to him, was sacred. because this is where johnny first played soccer.

    “Right here is where the legend was born,” said the man, drenched in sweat under the sun from the East Texas fireball. “And now the legend is coming back. I promise you, he is coming back.”

    at tyler, they still believe in the magic of johnny football.

    Now comes the hard part for Manziel: turning skeptics into believers, one day at a time, 1,100 miles away in Cleveland.

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