On July 30, 2013, Wright Thomson, senior editor at ESPN The Magazine, got up close and personal with the Manziels at their old family home adjacent to the 16th hole of the Hollytree Country Club in Texas. Johnny's temper made an appearance and Thompson captured a telling moment,
"On the fifth hole, he [Johnny] snaps. He flings a wedge through the air. The club helicopters, spinning so fast it hums, bouncing off the nearby cart path. 'F***,' he says under his breath.
"Paul sees the club toss but doesn't say anything. Not yet, not until he calms his own anger and frustration. Johnny needs to grow up or risk losing his future, and every thrown club, or ill-advised tweet, reminds his father how far they have to go. Paul is scared."
Johnny Manziel's anger isn't rooted in poverty. Football wasn't "a way out" as it was/is for many of the game's players. Johnny is actually the great grandson of Texas oil fortune. He was born privileged and was gifted with athletic ability. From an outside perspective he had it all, yet Johnny Manziel the man was never able to catch up to Johnny "Football" the legend. To quote the most popular book in Texas,
"Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more."
Manziel was able to achieve the first half of that quote: he was given much, and he understood that on the field he will be required to do many things, but when he was entrusted to be responsible; practice hard; be strong emotionally, mentally, and physically; and then be demanded to do more – perhaps Johnny the man had not matured enough to appreciate the honor bestowed upon him.
Thompson's story was published less than three years ago. At that time, Johnny still hadn't played a down of NFL football. He was still the raw talent mixed with baggage and temper flare-ups that made many NFL GM's unsure he could thrive in the pros. Former Browns GM Ray Farmer took a chance on Manziel. Since then, Johnny's gone from the most exciting prospect coming out of college to flirting with a lifetime ban in the NFL. With every day that goes by, with every poolside drink that gets drunk under the sunny skies of Sin City, Johnny Manziel walks one step further away from the NFL.
It would be easy to tear Manziel apart for all the trouble he's gotten into and the pain he's cast onto those around him, including his family, teammates, and girlfriends. The truth is, this is sport, not showbiz. Comeback stories are still very much alive in the sports world. The NFL even celebrates it with the Comeback Player Of The Year award given to an NFL player who shows perseverance in overcoming adversity. If Michael Vick can win it, why not Johnny Manziel?
Manziel's road back into the good graces of the league and the hearts of its fans isn't paved with gold, but it's still available if he's willing to put in the work. The steps towards redemption seem obvious (once again, this coming from an outside perspective):