Johnny Manziel, the 2012 NCAA college football Heisman Trophy winner whose NFL career flamed out after two seasons due to a series of injuries and erratic off-the-field behavioral episodes that Manziel later attributed to bipolar disorder, according to SB Nation, plays his first pro football game since December 27, 2015, on Friday — taking his first step in what he hopes will be a march back to the NFL.
But on Friday, according to ESPN, Manziel will be under center for the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League, as they host the team that signed Manziel earlier this year but never gave him a chance to play in a competitive game, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
The game will be the seventh of the season for Montreal, and with only one win to show for it so far, the Alouettes will be looking to “Johnny Football” to help reverse their fortunes in the 18-game, 2018 CFL campaign.
As for Manziel, he says he’s more than ready to go.
“I’m going to go out and throw the s*** out of the ball, there is no doubt about that,” Manziel said, according to The Sporting News.
“I sat down all weekend with the coaches and put in some things that I feel like, ‘Hey, this is what I did at (Texas A&M), this is what I felt like in Cleveland we had in our playbook that I liked. These are things that I’ve repped a lot in the past. We put some stuff in that I felt like I knew and I’ve repped a lot in the past.”
Hamilton, who come into the game at 2-4, traded Manziel to Montreal on July 22 for two first-run draft picks according to TSN. Manziel believes that his familiarity with the Hamilton roster will give him an advantage in Friday’s game.
“I feel fortunate enough this week to be going against a team, a defense that I’ve seen more than any other defense since I’ve been in the CFL,” Manziel said earlier this week, according to TSN. “I feel like I really know this personnel very well, I feel like I know this team in and out because I was a part of it.”
Of course, Manziel will also need to adjust to the Canadian brand of football which bears some striking differences from its NFL counterpart, as the Rules of Sport site explains.
For starters, CFL football teams put 12 players on the field, rather than 11, as in the NFL. While moving the ball 10 yards gives a team a first down, just like in the NFL, the CFL allows only three plays rather than four to make that 10-yard distance. The Canadian field is 110 yards long with end zones that are 20 yards deep, compared to the NFL’s 100-yard field with 10-yard end zones.
But perhaps the biggest difference between the CFL and NFL becomes clear when the players open their paychecks. When he signed with the Cleveland Browns who drafted him in the first round, 22nd overall in 2014, Manziel signed a four-year deal worth more than $8 million, according to the data site Over The Cap.
Manziel’s CFL contract pays him only $122,000 plus bonuses and incentives that could earn him another $178,000, according to a report by SEC Country. While Manziel’s paycheck is only a fraction of what he earned in the NFL, his take is considered hefty by the standards of the CFL, where the average player salary is $80,000.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats vs. Montreal Alouettes CFL game featuring the return to pro football of Johnny Manziel will be televised in the United States by ESPN2, with a live stream available from WatchESPN. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Eastern, 4:30 p.m. Pacific on Friday, August 3.