AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Johnny Manziel’s attempt to restart his football career brought him to a game on Saturday in a high school stadium that was largely empty.
Manziel, 25, and two seasons removed from the sport, prefers a return to the NFL, would settle for the Canadian Football League, but has landed for now in The Spring League.
It’s a four-team showcase of practices and two games designed as an audition for pro scouts.
On Saturday, Manziel played about two quarters, completing 8 of 16 passes for 79 yards and a touchdown in windy, unseasonably cold conditions — temperatures in the low 40s — with a few hundred fans watching, many of them cheering for him.
Manziel was sacked four times, fumbled once, an issue he mentioned as a problem he had in the NFL, and could not lead his team in the final two minutes to a touchdown that would have won the game.
Manziel said he was frustrated by the final drive but added, “It’s good to be back on the field. I’m healthy. I had fun. This is a huge step for me.”
As Manziel angles for a return to the NFL, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner wants to distance himself from the personal issues that hurt him in the past.
Selected out of Texas A&M by Cleveland in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft — No. 22 overall — Manziel threw as many interceptions (seven) as touchdown passes with the Browns during two seasons.
In 2016, a domestic assault charge against Manziel in Dallas was dismissed after Manziel took an anger management course and participated in the NFL’s substance-abuse program.
In a recent interview, Manziel said he’s been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and has stopped drinking alcohol.
He recently reminded people about his lackadaisical approach in the past by telling radio host Dan Patrick that the Browns should have known he wasn’t a student of the game, an expert on the X’s and O’s of football, when they drafted him.
But Manziel said he is taking medication for the bipolar disorder and is devoted to the improvement of his life and career.
“No matter what happens football-wise, I’ve repaired a lot of relationships,” Manziel said. “There was a lot of myself that needed a lot of work. The message that I’m sending is showing up every day, going to (team) meetings, being engaged. If the NFL pops up, cool. If not, I’m gonna work until I get back there.”