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10 Things Learned Watching Untold: Johnny Football


I watched the Netflix documentary "Untold: Johnny Football," which delved into the career of Johnny Manziel and the numerous behind-the-scenes scandals that unfolded. For those unfamiliar, Johnny Manziel was an exceptional football player during his college years and played a pivotal role in Texas A&M's successful transition to the SEC. While Manziel soared as a superstar quarterback, it's hard to ignore that he was also a complete trainwreck plagued by personal turmoil, addiction to many drugs, and had self-destructive behavior. The documentary presents a rollercoaster of highs and lows, showcasing how Manziel's football journey mirrored his own tumultuous life.


This documentary provides valuable insights into Johnny Manziel's life, offering a glimpse into his experiences that he had not previously shared. Throughout the film, we witness Manziel's rise to fame and subsequent fall from grace, with his football career mirroring the ups and downs of his personal struggles. "Untold: Johnny Football" stands out as one of the first instances where Manziel himself deeply opens up about his career, offering viewers a fresh perspective on his challenges and triumphs.


The documentary unveils a wealth of new information that sheds light on previously unknown aspects of Manziel's life and career. It offers a comprehensive look at his journey, from his college football glory days to his rocky transition to the NFL, marked by controversies, substance abuse, and personal struggles.


10. Manziel never watched any film and it was obvious.

This was leaked the moment that the documentary was going to release, but Manziel and his agent revealed that Johnny never watched any film.

In retrospect, it becomes evident that Manziel's lack of preparation was apparent in his on-field performances, which lacked the strategic acumen that comes with thorough film analysis and playbook study. The revelation that he had not engaged with film or playbook materials should not have been surprising, given that many people were already aware of his indifference towards these aspects of the game. Even Nate Fitch, a close associate, attested that he had never witnessed Manziel open a playbook during his college years.


The documentary sheds light on Kliff Kingsbury, who does not come across well. Kingsbury's lenient attitude allowed Manziel to exert his influence on the field while disregarding his responsibilities off it. Kingsbury's laissez-faire approach to running the offense at Texas Tech further enabled Manziel's lack of commitment and discipline. Heck Kingsbury even was giggling about Manziel's avoidance of film study and his tolerance for Manziel's hungover presence in practice only reinforced this enabling dynamic.

It's perplexing to imagine that the Cleveland Browns didn't thoroughly investigate Manziel's habits, especially in terms of his film study and preparation. The discrepancy between his reported lack of film study and the expectations of an NFL quarterback's diligence should have raised alarms. The fact that Manziel's iPad showed a film study time of 0.0 hours highlights the stark reality of his approach. This discovery likely contributed to the realization within the team that they had made a significant mistake in evaluating Manziel's readiness and commitment for the NFL.


9. Texas A&M Profiting from Johnny Manziel made him despise the NCAA

Johnny Manziel was truly a phenomenon in college football, and he played a pivotal role in elevating Texas A&M's status, especially when they transitioned into the SEC. This documentary sheds light on how Texas A&M's program benefited from Manziel's success. His Heisman Trophy win alone generated a staggering $37 million in free publicity. This dramatic increase in Manziel's value translated to significant financial gains for Texas A&M, with the Texas A&M Foundation raising around $740 million in a single year, which was an extraordinary achievement.


One of the issues that greatly frustrated Manziel was related to Adidas jerseys. A massive number of jerseys bearing his name and number were sold, reportedly around 45 million No. 2 A&M jerseys by Adidas. However, Manziel himself did not receive any financial compensation from these sales. This situation deeply irked Manziel and contributed to his strong resentment towards the NCAA. In fact, Manziel was quoted saying, “I was tired of not having any money, ... 'I have a deep hatred against the NCAA'." It's clear that Manziel's lack of financial benefit from his own popularity played a significant role in his negative view of the NCAA.

Considering the changes in recent years that allow college athletes to profit from their own name, image, and likeness, it's conceivable that if these opportunities had existed during Manziel's time, he might have chosen to remain in college longer and perhaps played through his senior year.


8. Nate Fitch’s involvement Manziel’s Autograph Scandals

The documentary then delved into Johnny Manziel's Autograph Scandal. While I was already familiar with most of the information presented, the documentary unveiled a previously hidden figure who played a significant role in this story – Nate Fitch, Manziel's childhood friend and business manager.


In 2013, Manziel and Fitch collaborated to capitalize on Manziel's fame following his Heisman Trophy win. Given his estimated worth of $37 million, they devised a plan to profit from Manziel's autographs, attracting substantial revenue. At one point, Manziel had accumulated $100,000 in cash, adopting a lavish lifestyle reminiscent of a rockstar. Even notable personalities like Alex Rodriguez were involved, a detail I was previously unaware of. One of the most remarkable anecdotes involved Manziel signing autographs in a hotel room, subsequently receiving a code to a safe containing $30,000. Their arrangement dictated that Fitch would receive 20% of the proceeds, while Manziel retained 80%, a notably favorable deal.

Given the substantial sums they generated, it was inevitable that the NCAA would uncover their activities. Fitch responded by crafting a fictional narrative, suggesting that his family was affluent and rich due to oil wealth, an account the media accepted. This explanation seemingly accounted for the substantial cash. While Manziel's family was financially stable, they weren't as affluent as the story portrayed. Remarkably, Manziel's "punishment" amounted to a mere half-game suspension by the NCAA which is one of the dumbest suspension lengths I have ever seen.

In the documentary, Fitch came across as a compassionate figure who genuinely cared for Manziel. It's unfortunate that their connection waned over time, especially as Fitch was instrumental in supporting Manziel during his college years. As Manziel transitioned to the NFL, he seemed to distance himself from Fitch due to perceptions that Fitch was a "risky person." One can't help but speculate if Fitch's continued involvement might have positively impacted Manziel's NFL career, potentially offering more restraint or guidance. While not implying absolute control, Fitch's influence raises intriguing questions about how different factors could have altered Manziel's trajectory.

7. Manziel’s Grandfather helped hide the money Manziel made with autographs

This got me to wonder listening to Fitch’s story, with all this money coming in, how the hell were they going to Launder this money. Well let's just say Manziel’s Grandfather helped out. He would be the one that would write a check to deposit into Manzel's account and Manziel would give cash in return to his grandfather. I love the fact that Manziel’s Grandfather himself was laughing about it as well during the documentary. Say what you want but Manziel’s Grandfather really helped out Johnny as without him I am pretty sure the NCAA would have found out quicker.


6. Manziel had to take fully online courses in college

It's clear that Johnny Manziel's rise to fame and popularity had both its upsides and downsides during his time at Texas A&M. His exceptional performance on the football field and charismatic personality made him a sensation, drawing massive attention not only from fans but also from the media and the public. This level of fame and scrutiny brought both excitement and challenges to his college experience.


The overwhelming attention and demand from fans seeking his autographs and interactions could indeed be a double-edged sword. While it's a testament to his star power and the impact he had on the college football world, it also meant that he was constantly surrounded by people seeking his attention like Lebron James and Drake. This kind of fame can be both thrilling and overwhelming, leading to moments of vulnerability and the need for personal space.

The decision to transition him to fully online courses due to the intense crowd presence and potential distractions is understandable from a logistical standpoint. However, it also deprived Manziel of the traditional college experience and interactions that many students cherish.

Knowing Johnny Manziel, online classes were going to be a poor idea and Kliff Kingsbury himself, the offensive coordinator for them, agreed it was a bad idea. Manziel's reputation for a more carefree and adventurous lifestyle might not have suited online courses, which often require strong self-discipline and motivation. It was clear Manziel did not have that.


5. Manziel threw to his Agent and Lawyer during his private workout with the Cleveland Browns


When Manziel entered the NFL, it was customary for teams to request private workouts with potential athletes. Given that Manziel was a top prospect and there was a need for a quarterback, he was granted a private workout. However, Manziel showed up to the workout after a night of partying, while the wide receivers who were supposed to attend with him didn't show up. One was missing, and another was too intoxicated to participate. Consequently, Manziel's lawyer and agent had to catch passes from him during the workout. One would assume that such a scenario would result in Manziel being removed from the draft consideration, but not in the case of the Browns. This was during a time when the Browns were one of the most dysfunctional and inept organizations in football. Even with the signs being there, the Browns still drafted him.


4. The Drug Test Fiasco at the Combine

Speaking of his agent, let's discuss Johnny Manziel's agent, Erik Burkhardt. It's clear that you can't tell Johnny Manziel's story without involving his agent, and fortunately, Burkhardt agreed to share his perspective in the documentary.


One notable incident involving Burkhardt was the drug test situation before the NFL Combine. Manziel was under Burkhardt's strict pre-draft training regimen, which included multiple drug tests to prove his sobriety and drug-free status to scouts and the media. This would have been a good strategy if Manziel was not a complete trainwreck.

Just one week before the combine, Manziel had a breakdown. He attended a party, and while he didn't remember much, he knew he had used drugs. When Burkhardt found out about this, he advised Manziel not to attend the combine, fearing that his draft stock could plummet from a potential first-round pick to being undrafted. However, Manziel insisted on attending, so a compromise was reached.

Burkhardt's insight during this time sheds light on his role as an agent trying to guide and protect his client. However, his portrayal in the documentary isn't entirely favorable. One particularly questionable action was when he suggested that Manziel's father fake a medical condition to get out of a drug test. This recommendation raises ethical concerns, as faking a medical issue to avoid a test is not an appropriate course of action, regardless of the high stakes involved.

Even Manziel himself disagreed with this suggestion and chose a different approach. He decided to stay hydrated by chugging gallons of water to wash the toxins out and took numerous drug tests in Burkhardt's hotel room until they were satisfied with the results. This method was apparently not new to Manziel, as he had employed similar tactics during his time at Texas A&M, sometimes even having the fourth-string quarterback take the test on his behalf.

In summary, while Erik Burkhardt fulfilled his role as an agent by advocating for his client's interests, his decisions and recommendations during this period come across as ethically questionable and not in line with the right course of action.

3. Manziel’s Father Does Not Come Across Well in This Documentary

I must say, it's not just his agent and Kliff Kingsbury who come across as questionable in this documentary, but his father also doesn't come across well. It's not just about the fact that the guy was willing to lie about being in a hospital so that Johnny Manziel wouldn't have to undergo a drug test at the combine. It also has to do with the nonsensical lack of accountability for his actions, mistakes, and not holding Johnny responsible.


His father was even quoted saying, “You trust when you turn your kid over to a college football program, they’ll teach him how to be a man.” Yes, because right when they go to college, you just completely wash your hands of guiding him into becoming a responsible adult.

Here's another absurd thing he said when Manziel was struggling and going through issues in the NFL, “What Johnny needed was to be held accountable.” Bro, you're his dad; the most important person to hold him accountable is the parents, and one of your responsibilities is to hold him accountable for his actions.

Listening to Johnny’s dad makes you realize where one of the problems lay. It was always someone else's fault when his son got into trouble. This guy expected everyone else to raise his kid but himself. It was A&M's job to teach him to be a man, it was the Browns' job to surround him with the right people. Never once did I hear him talk about his role in raising Johnny or being a father. Is it entirely his father’s fault? No, but he definitely played a significant role in why Johnny's career as a quarterback didn't pan out in the long term.


2. The Moment the Houston Texans wanted no part of Manziel

Oh boy, this is quite a story that I wasn't aware of. During the 2014 NFL Draft, the Houston Texans held the 1st Overall Pick, and initially, there was a lot of speculation that they might select Johnny Manziel, especially considering he was from Texas and had a strong connection to the state due to his time at Texas A&M.


However, it seems that Manziel's chances with the Texans were dashed due to his behavior at a charity golf event. The incident took place in the Houston area, and Manziel's behavior quickly spiraled out of control. Reports indicate that he got drunk, removed his shirt, broke golf clubs by smashing them on his knees, and even threw some of the broken clubs into a pond.

This behavior caught the attention of the golf course owner, who subsequently informed the Texans organization about Manziel's antics. It seems that this incident played a significant role in the Texans' decision-making process, leading them to pass on Manziel in the draft. When his agent got word His behavior at the charity golf event likely raised concerns about his maturity and ability to handle the responsibilities of an NFL player. As a result, the Texans chose to go in a different direction in the draft.


1.Johnny Manziel Suicide Attempt

It's evident that Johnny Manziel has been dealing with significant mental health challenges, including a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. What I wasn't aware of was the depth of his struggles, including contemplating suicide. The downward spiral seemed to intensify when the Cleveland Browns cut ties with him, marking the beginning of a difficult period transitioning out of the NFL. His substance abuse issues, involving cocaine and oxycodone, as well as a severe alcohol addiction, exacerbated his situation along with the multiple arrests he had.


His addiction and mental health issues seemed to lead him down a path of self-destruction. He even confessed to intentionally engaging in actions to cause harm to his own life. His quote, "Direct self-sabotage, trying to burn this thing down. I had planned to do everything that I wanted to do at that point in my life. Spend as much money as I possibly could, and then my plan was to take my life," is a chilling revelation of the depth of his despair. Learning that he was on the brink of suicide and had even acquired a firearm is incredibly disheartening.


No matter one's perspective on Johnny Manziel, it's difficult to hear about the extent of his pain and suffering during this period of his life. His story highlights the importance of recognizing and addressing mental health struggles, substance abuse, and the need for support. It's truly fortunate that he didn't go through with his plans, as his potential loss would have been a tragic outcome.


It's positive to hear and see that he is in a better place now then he was. His journey serves as an important reminder of the need for mental health awareness and support, not just within the sports industry but in society as a whole. It's essential to create an environment where individuals feel safe to talk about their mental health challenges and seek help when needed.


If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, it's important to reach out to a mental health professional or anyone. There is help available, and reaching out can make a significant difference in someone's life.


Overall, I found this documentary to be well-crafted and engaging. However, I can't help but feel that it missed a significant opportunity by not delving into his time in the CFL, which was also marked by controversies and challenges. Additionally, his stints in the AAF and FCF could have provided further insight into his football journey. While I understand that time constraints might have limited what could be covered, I believe that another episode or installment would have been beneficial to fully explore the complexities of Johnny Manziel's career.


Despite these limitations, I still highly recommend watching this documentary. It offered a unique and often shocking perspective on Manziel's career, revealing new information that many might not have been aware of. The highs and lows of his journey are captivating, shedding light on the complexities of his rise to stardom and subsequent struggles.


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