Johnny Manziel is on the road to recovery, and he hopes there’s a second chance at the NFL at the end of it.
In an exclusive interview with ABC News’ T.J. Holmes, which aired Monday morning, the former football player opened up about his recovery from alcohol abuse, his new focus on mental health after being diagnosed as bipolar, and his ultimate goal of returning to the game he loves most.
“I saw the trickle-down effects of what I was doing in my life, that were meaningless and pointless and selfish,” said Manziel, who hasn’t played football since being cut by the Cleveland Browns in 2016.
Manziel, dubbed “Johnny Football” in college, became the first freshman in NCAA history to win the Heisman Trophy as the NCAA’s most outstanding player in 2012. He was drafted 22nd overall by Cleveland in 2014 but struggled to find success at the NFL level due to ongoing off-field issues, which eventually led to his NFL career being cut short.
“I had a sense of entitlement about what I had accomplished at the age that I’d accomplished it,” said Manziel, who became a common tabloid target for his partying, and also got into legal trouble when he faced a misdemeanor assault charge that was eventually dropped last fall.
“For a while I got so ingrained, caring only about what Johnny wanted, only caring what mattered to me, what made me happy,” said Manziel, 25. “When I look back at it now, even when I thought I was doing what I wanted, I was miserable.”
Manziel, who entered rehab in 2015, said his ultimate goal is to return to the NFL. He was long rumoured to be a possibility to sign with the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats, but no deal has been made yet.
“I am coming back from a huge downfall,” Manziel said. “I don’t know what kind of comeback it will be, but I know I want to get back on a football field, and do what brought me so much joy in my life.”
Here are a few excerpts from the powerful interview:
On watching football — and not playing it:
“I am watching all the other guys doing what I want to be doing, and I am sitting on a couch being a loser.”
On his struggles with alcohol abuse and some of his darkest moments:
“Going back throughout the last couple years of my life, I was self-medicating with alcohol. That’s what I thought was making me happy and helping me get out of that depression to a point where I thought I had some sense of happiness.
“But at the end of the day, you’re left staring at the ceiling by yourself, and you’re back in that depression and back in that hole, that dark hole of sitting in a room by yourself, being super depressed, thinking about all the mistakes you made in your life. Where did that get me? Where did that get me except out of the NFL? Where did that get me? Disgraced?”
On being diagnosed with bipolar disorder last year, and how he’s looking at his mental health:
“The difference that I know this year is, I started taking a look at my mental health a little bit and making it a priority in my life.
“I’m taking medication for bipolar and I am working to try to make sure I don’t fall back into any type of depression, because I know where that leads me and I know how slippery a slope that is for me…
“At the end of the day, I can’t help that my wires are a little bit differently crossed than yours. I can’t help my mental makeup of the way that I was created.”