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The highs and lows of Johnny Manziel’s football career

On the heels of the Netflix ‘Untold’ documentary, we take a brief look at Johnny Manziel’s football career.

NCAA Football: Florida at Texas A&M Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Netflix’s top-rated sports documentary series Untold has returned with Vol. 3, and the second chapter of the new season highlights football player Johnny Manziel, who became one of the most electrifying athletes and notorious personalities over the last decade. With the Netflix documentary taking a deep dive into his journey, it’s worth revisiting the rollercoaster of highs and lows he encountered.

Here’s a high-level timeline of Johnny Manziel’s career, from his days as a high school phenom to his electrifying chapter of college football, and finally into his stint in the NFL and his current post-NFL career.


High-school phenom

Manziel was highly recruited from high school and received offers from Baylor, Colorado State, Iowa State, Louisiana Tech, Oregon, Rice, Stanford, Tulsa, and Wyoming. Despite initially committing to Oregon, Manziel later changed his commitment to Texas A&M, with much influence given to then quarterbacks coach Tom Rossley. Throughout his collegiate career, he played receiver as well as quarterback.

Manziel threw for 7,500 yards and 75 touchdowns in his four years at Tivy High School, earning him a ticket to the NUC All-World Game, where he threw for over 200 yards and rushed for over the century mark, marking the first instance where he dominated on the national stage. Manziel was rated as a three-star quarterback in many consensus recruiting rankings in high school.

Texas A&M and ‘Johnny Football’

NCAA Football: Chick-fil-A Bowl-Duke vs Texas A&M Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

With Ryan Tannehill leaving Texas A&M for the NFL, Manziel won the starting quarterback job throughout spring football and fall practices. His electrifying freshman season coincided with the Aggies' first season in the SEC, and together Texas A&M put together arguably the best season in the program’s history. He threw for 3,706 yards and 26 touchdowns while leading the Aggies to an 11-2 record, including a Cotton Bowl win over Oklahoma. By season’s end, he won the Davey O’Brien Award and the Heisman Trophy, becoming the first freshman to win either hardware.

Manziel returned for his sophomore season, throwing for 4,114 yards and 37 touchdowns as Texas A&M finished with a 9-4 record in their second year in the SEC. Manziel chose to forego his remaining eligibility and declare for the NFL Draft.

Cleveland Browns and the NFL

Syndication: Cincinnati File/Kareem Elgazzar

Draft analysts varied in their assessments of Manziel, varying from projecting him as a top-five pick to some considering going undrafted. On draft night, Manziel was taken with the 22nd overall pick of the first round by the Cleveland Browns. However, his electrifying skillset that served him well in college failed to carry over into the NFL. After a handful of off-the-field incidents, including a reported domestic violence incident during the 2015 season, Manziel would eventually be released by the Browns after just two seasons.

Manziel would never return to the NFL, finishing with eight-game appearances and a 2-6 record as a starter. He logged 1,675 passing yards, seven touchdowns, and seven interceptions with a career 74.4 passer rating.

Post-NFL career

Syndication: The Commercial Appeal Joe Rondone/The Commercial Appeal / USA TODAY NETWORK

Following his two-year stint in the NFL, Manziel would bounce around a handful of leagues in the subsequent years, including terms in the Canadian Football League, Alliance of American Football, and Fan Controlled Football, an indoor American Football league. Since 2021, Manziel has played with the FCF’s Zappers, and for the 2022 season, he indicated he would return for a second year as a player-coach for the team.