Johnny Manziel has agreed to continue his playing career in a rookie league called Fan-Controlled Football, he told ESPN this week.
Launched in February, the league will feature 7-on-7 matches in which fans will make lists, make phone calls and interact in a mix of traditional and sporting environments.
The more I heard about it, the more I felt it was going to be fun, Manziel said. It will be very fanatic and I will be able to support it without it becoming extreme, very, very serious as it has been in my football career in the past.
Manziel, 28 years old, is through actor Bob Menery, a mutual friend, connected with FCF co-founder and CEO Sohrob Farudi. The last time Manziel played soccer for the Alliance of American Football was in April 2019. Since his release by the Cleveland Browns in 2015 he plays in the Spring League and the Canadian Football League.
He said this week that he does not intend to return to football at any level, but that he looks forward to playing the FCF version on his own terms. Since the collapse of the AAF, Manziel has moved to Scottsdale, Arizona, where he says he will play golf, play football in the backyard with friends, watch football on weekends and lead a normal, relaxed life until 2020.
Sometimes life gives you the chance to do something you would still like to do if you were in a different position, Manziel said. He has great potential to have fun while keeping his focus on football. They are going to let people in this league be who they are and have fun and be a little freer than football sometimes is. I guess that’s what attracted me. They don’t want me to change or anything. They want to go out, market a good product and enjoy it.
Fault! The file name is not specified. Johnny Manziel played in the Spring League, the Canadian Football League and the Alliance of American Football since the Browns released him in 2015. Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images
Farudi said the league will focus on connecting fans with the lives of players off the field, through social media or other digital integrations, making it tailor-made for a man like Manziel.
It’s not just about what you can do on the field, it’s also about who you are outside the field, Farudi said. We want them to be in touch with the fans and to be authentic. I think if you look at Johnny’s career, it’s had its ups and downs. He has such a big, daring personality. Of course, he got on some people’s nerves. But he only has that presence.
He came in other leagues and, I hate to say it, but it’s like the handcuffs are on. You should have done something else. They should walk and talk differently. He couldn’t just be himself. That’s where we want to be different as competition. We embrace the idea that we are more than just an athlete. … We feel very comfortable with players who are great personalities off the field and do what they want to do. For us it’s as much about contact with the fans outside the field as it is about playing soccer on the field.
Manziel, who won the 2012 Heisman Trophy at Texas A&M, was selected 22nd in the 2014 NFL Entry Draft. He played 14 games for the Browns in two seasons, but problems off the field and a lack of attention to his performance caused the Browns to break ties with him. In 2018, Manziel said he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had abused alcohol to fight his depression – episodes that often went viral on social media or which he had published himself.
When asked where he is now on a personal level, Manziel replied that I woke up with a bigger smile than before when they said I had everything. It’s funny how sometimes in life. If you have everything, you can be frustrated, and if you have much less, you can be much happier. I’m at a point in my life where I’m 28 years old and I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do in the future and create a new identity, and that’s what the past year has been for me.
FCF’s main investor is Lightspeed Venture Partners. The league will begin with four teams, each of which will include top NFL players Richard Sherman, Austin Ekeler and retired Marshawn Lynch. Other owners include hip-hop artist Quavo, boxer Mike Tyson and Menery.
The teams will play a six-week schedule and the games will be broadcast live on Twitch from the Atlanta league. The races will take about an hour and the field will be 50 meters by 35 meters with 10 meter end zones. The players have experience in Division I and II colleges and in the CFL, XFL and indoor football leagues. The FCF recently received a pledge from the former state of Florida and Hampton quarterback Deondre Francois.
Farudi described the vision of the competition as a gammalization of the fan experience, aimed at the age group 18-35 years. Fans who sign up take part in most football promotions.
The younger generation is no longer watching a three-hour race, according to Mr Farudi. They want it quick and easy. This is part of our concept – we want to give it to them quickly and easily. It’s a one-hour game. It’s interactive. They observe and communicate at the same time.