Loyola Phoenix

Williamson: Johnny is Up-and-Down, but Here to Stay

Johnny Manziel experienced a tumultuous first year in the NFL, but after rehab and a renewed dedication to football, he looks like he’ll finally be able to carry the Browns. Eric Drost//Flickr

“Snap from Patrick Lewis. Four-man Alabama rush. Got him. Oh no, they didn’t! Oh my gracious — how about that?”

This college football play-by-play call from 2012 is one of the most memorable calls in recent memory. But what’s so special about it? It sounds like just another ordinary piece of commentary with a little bit of spice from Verne Lundquist, right? No.

Allow me to put it all into context: Alabama, a powerhouse in college football, sent four of the finest defensive linemen in the nation after the opposing quarterback, who was naturally bottled up in a matter of seconds; but the quarterback — through some lick of magic — channeled his inner gymnast and escaped sudden death just before making a miraculous play downfield.

Who does this play bring to mind? None other than Johnny Manziel. Manziel took down No. 1 Alabama in 2012, highlighted by this Heisman-winning play that sealed him in the lore of college football as “Johnny Football.”

In line with a typical story plot, the climax preceded the falling action. Manziel entered the NFL on top of the world. He had just won the Heisman Trophy, was drafted in the first round and made the front page of countless tabloids. The only thing he had against him — besides the autograph-for-pay scandal in his rearview mirror — was the fact that he was drafted by Cleveland, the city where football players go to lose. However, Manziel was hailed as the magician ready to come save Cleveland from its historic misery.

Not exactly. Manziel could never get his career on track. His arrogance certainly carried over from college. He thrived off the attention, and he couldn’t stop doing his trademark “Money Manziel” sign. Opposing players regularly mocked the sign, sending a strong message to the haughty Manziel to either grow up or get out. Manziel couldn’t handle the pressure — he tanked his rookie year and entered an alcohol and drug rehab facility following the season.

It seemed as though it was all over for Manziel. But I’m here to tell you that Johnny Football is here to stay; he is back on the path to glory that leads to yet another climax in his storied career.

The first sign that Manziel is ready to take the next step in his career is that he finally tempered his immaturity. The money sign is gone for good, and the attention-seeking guise appears to have been put to rest. Manziel now has the time and the space to focus on perfecting his craft as a football player.

On top of that, Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine tapped veteran Josh McCown as the starting quarterback for the team’s Week 1 game. Second string is the perfect place for Manziel; he can feel less pressure and still have the motivation to beat the odds and eventually become the starter. To top it off, football fans know the washed-up McCown is trending downward after that horrid last season with Tampa Bay.

With that said, Manziel is already looking better than McCown in preseason. He stole the show against Buffalo during Week 2 of the preseason, showcasing the classic Manziel magic during a few plays. In two games, he’s thrown two touchdowns, while McCown has only one touchdown with two interceptions.

Cleveland is currently riding the momentum of its basketball team after the recent acquisition of Lebron James. James put the Cavaliers on his back and almost beat the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals this summer. It’s now Manziel’s time to do the same thing and carry the Browns to the promised land.

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