Johnny Manziel, to put it mildly, is in a tailspin – a tailspin that Emily Kaplan shed light on in a recent piece for Sports Illustrated and The MMQB. Kaplan spoke to numerous people close to or associated with Manziel, including friends, coaches and former teammates.
“They were saying, ‘I don’t know if Johnny wants to play football anymore,’” Kaplan told Damon Amendolara, who was filling in as host of CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “I began reporting this story about six weeks ago. I checked in with these people four weeks ago, two weeks ago and then a couple days before the story ran, (and) even their sentiments – from our first initial contact to just this week – really was a big difference. They were saying when they start to see Johnny in these videos leaving clubs, they don’t even recognize him anymore.”
Which is sad. These people, Kaplan said, insist Manziel is a good guy who’s just in a bad place. They’re rooting for him to come out on top. That sentiment came up over and over and over again.
Depending on your point or view, that may or may not be surprising.
“I was a bit (surprised),” Kaplan said. “Because I think the portrait about Johnny from afar is this is just a bad kid, he’s a party animal, he has kind of this frat-boy image and he doesn’t really care about football. To hear that there’s a little more complexity to him – maybe it’s not that he’s just totally disengaged and that he does have people in his corner, especially teammates – that did surprise me.”
Manziel, 23, was the 22nd overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft. The Browns released the former Heisman winner last week after two tumultuous seasons.
Where Manziel goes from here is anybody’s guess.
“Johnny feels like he’s done everything right,” Kaplan said. “He’s done everything the coaches ask of him, he does just enough and then expects to be given the world. And sometimes when things don’t go in his favor and when he faces adversity, that’s when he’s kind of incredulous and says, ‘What? But I’ve done everything.’ I think that kind of seems like a sense of entitlement and that’s something that traces back perhaps to his upbringing.”
Indeed, Manziel likes football, but he’s never needed it. He grew up getting what he wanted. Money was never an issue.
“Everything’s easy for Johnny,” Kaplan said. “He got to go to all the best camps, he always was the best player and he never really had to fight for anything. When he did face adversity, he kind of crumbled.”
He still is. In fact, Manziel’s father, Paul, said in February that if Manziel does not get help, he will not live to celebrate his 24th birthday in December.
That’s not a father trying to make headlines. That’s a father trying to get through to his son.
“I think the concern level is high,” Kaplan said. “To me, it felt like a plea of desperation.”