Many athletes dream of going from the classroom to the gridiron, but former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL first round pick Johnny Manziel is doing the opposite.
After his short stint in the NFL didn’t go according to plan, Manziel has reportedly enrolled in classes at Texas A&M, where he was previously the school’s quarterback, in the hopes of graduating sometime in the next year.
Per the Dallas Morning News, Manziel will be considered a senior at Texas A&M and is looking to graduate with a degree in recreation, parks, and tourism sciences.
Manziel left the school following his sophomore season in 2013 to pursue an NFL career, but he left his mark at A&M as one of the most dynamic players the school has seen.
Despite the fact that he only played in two seasons for the Aggies, his 7,820 passing yards and 63 touchdown passes are both the second most in the school’s history.
In 2012, he was the first freshman to win the Heisman, throwing for 3,706 yards while rushing for 1,410 more. The latter total is the third-most rushing yards total in a single season for any player at Texas A&M.
As if that weren’t impressive enough, his 21 rushing touchdowns in 2012 are still the most by any player at the school including and especially running backs.
Manziel followed up his Heisman campaign by throwing for 4,114 yards and 37 touchdowns (both school records) in 2013, including a 464 passing yards performance in a game against then-No. 1 Alabama. That total was the second-most single game passing yards total in school history.
Manziel also rushed for 759 yards, leading the team in rushing yards for the second-straight year.
Certainly one of the most dynamic dual-threat quarterbacks the college game has seen, Manziel seemed a sure-thing first-rounder in the 2014 NFL Draft.
But as intriguing a quarterback as he was, he was just as controversial for his party-hard attitude and issues with alcohol abuse off the field.
The uneasiness to bring that baggage into the locker room made teams skeptical of Manziel, who may have been a top-10 pick if drafted solely for talent.
Instead, he tumbled to the No. 22 pick and ended up with the Cleveland Browns.
He started only two games his rookie season, threw two interceptions with no touchdowns, and struggled to demonstrate his talent as a runner, a trait that rarely transfers over from the collegiate game to the pro game.
The following season, Manziel played in 10 games, threw for 1,500 yards and seven touchdowns with five interceptions.
But off the field, Manziel’s struggles were more prominent.
He battled fiercely with alcohol abuse, leaving his own father to say that he believed “if they can’t get him help, he won’t live to see his 24th birthday.”
He’s still in the middle of an unresolved assault case in which his ex-girlfriend claims he hit her so hard her eardrum burst in Dallas.
His agent dropped him and his marketing team left as well, all according to Sports Illustrated.
On top of it everything, the Browns released him in March and he hasn’t been in touch with any NFL teams since.
Just three years ago, Manziel was riding high as a high-caliber NFL prospect with major potential, the “big man” on campus.
Now, he’s on campus for a very different reason. He’s lost seemingly everything, but in order to rebuild his reputation and demonstrate some of the maturity he’s gained through it all, he’s back on track to graduate with a degree.
And that has been the most mature thing Manziel has done in the last few years.
It can’t be easy to handle the prospect of being counted on as “the guy” on an NFL team before failing to perform anywhere near expectations and it certainly can’t be easy to separate from an alcohol or drug addiction.
But one of the best ways for Manziel to get back on track is to finish his education and start looking at a career path in that line of work.
It’s possible that Manziel will get a call to play in the NFL again, but unlikely.
That time has passed and if he can remain sober, graduate, and start a career in something other than football, he will be on the road to recovering from the demons that have plagued him for the past three or four years.
This is a big step for Johnny Football. It’s a mature step that one can only hope leads him to recognize that he can remember Texas A&M for the good times at Kyle Field but now has the chance to look back in a few years and remember that he also graduated from that same field.
I really hope he embraces this opportunity.