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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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One step away
June 8, 2024

Johnny has a brand new stage

Johnny+Manziel
Johnny Manziel

Money Manziel took his talents to Cleveland, so The Batt followed. Sports editor Tyler Stafford took in his third preseason game.
Thirteen hundred miles away from Kyle Field, Johnny Manziel took the field in front of a new home crowd for the first time in three years – this time at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio, home of the Cleveland Browns. Seven months after declaring he was entering the 2014 NFL Draft following two electrifying seasons at Texas A&M, Johnny Football officially became Johnny Cleveland when he jogged out with his fellow teammates in front of 61,663 orange-and-brown clad fans on Saturday.
It didn’t take long for Manziel Mania to spread from College Station to Cleveland as evidenced by the thousands upon thousands of hats, shirts and jerseys that littered the city. Twenty dollars could buy your choice of various Manziel shirts ranging from the classic “Johnny Cleveland” to a silhouette of Johnny’s money sign celebration to simply a giant glossy smile of the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner on a brown background.
Seriously, however many people you think are wearing something with Manziel’s name on it in Cleveland, triple it. He’s everywhere. He’s bigger than LeBron.
It’s not just Cleveland that has fallen hard for Manziel. Taylor Huber and his fiancé Damien Alexander drove eight hours from their hometown of Philadelphia just to see Manziel. They aren’t Browns fans. They aren’t Aggies. They simply love Johnny Football.
Browns head coach Mike Pettine named Brian Hoyer the starting quarterback before the team’s third preseason game. Hoyer was born in Lakewood, Ohio, just minutes from FirstEnergy Field, but his hometown crowd overwhelmingly favored Manziel once the game began.
After Hoyer fumbled in the third quarter – his second turnover of the day – the “We want Johnny!” chants began. The crowd grew restless when Hoyer trotted back out on Cleveland’s next possession and a fan wearing a Manziel jersey a few rows away from me had more than a couple choice words regarding that decision. The fans came to see their first-round pick and they weren’t going to be happy until No. 2 took the field.
With eight minutes left in the third quarter, the crowd got their wish. Manziel strapped on his helmet and walked to the huddle at the St. Louis 14-yard line behind the loudest cheer of the night thus far. There was an undeniable electricity in the stadium.
After a penalty on two different plays by both teams, Manziel and the Browns found themselves seven yards away from the endzone. Manziel took the third-down snap and, in what looked like vintage Johnny, escaped the pressure, faked a throw and scrambled in for a touchdown – his first as a professional.
He popped up and gave his familiar “Money Manziel” to the crowd, who gave it right back to him. The fans were going nuts and high-fiving each other, all while their team was down 23-14.
The Rams pulled away as the Browns were unable to score again for the remainder of the game. The thinned out crowd saw the final nail in the coffin when Manziel was sacked with just over 20 seconds to go by former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam.
The Browns lost 33 to 14, but you couldn’t tell from the way some fans were talking about the game. “Did you see the way he dodged those guys on his touchdown run?” “It was like he had eyes in the back of his head.” “I’ve never seen anything like him.”
Underneath the stadium, the press conference room was filled with reporters from every local outlet, as well as most national ones. A simple Browns backdrop was placed behind the podium.
Johnny took his place behind the microphone last, after Pettine and Hoyer spoke. He spoke about feeling more comfortable in the offense with another week of experience and the thrill of scoring his first touchdown and his celebration.
“[The money celebration] is for those guys, it’s not for me,” Manziel said.
He talked about the competition for the starting job and how he was looking for any way to help the team win, whether he’s on the field or not. I asked him what it was like playing in front of a new crowd.
“It was great,” Manziel said. “The stadium looked incredible, the big screens looked awesome and the crowd was great from the beginning to the end. It was a great first experience for me. To get a touchdown was incredible.”
There is no denying that starter or not, Manziel will continue to generate lots of fanfare. His jersey is the best-selling jersey in the NFL. He has yet to play a down in the regular season, but some in Cleveland are already hailing him as their savior.
He’s all over every newspaper and TV station, and why not? I’m going to follow his journey long after his time in Aggieland, and it looks like you will too.

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