As Johnny Manziel’s life continued to barrel out of control following his release from the Cleveland Browns in 2016, the quarterback planned to take his own life.
The now-30-year-old Manziel recalled the dark period of his life in the new Netflix documentary, “Untold: Johnny Football,” revealing how he “went and bought a gun that I knew I was gonna use.”
“I think I was just running from problems,” Manziel said. “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.
“Months prior, went and bought a gun that I knew I was gonna use. I wanted it to get as bad as humanly possible to where it made sense, and it made it seem like an excuse and an out for me.”
Manziel, who has been candid about his struggle with substance abuse, then detailed how the firearm malfunctioned.
“Still, to this day, I don’t know what happened, but the gun just clicked on me,” he said.
Manziel reflects on his meteoric rise as a Heisman Trophy-winning superstar at Texas A&M to an infamous NFL flameout in the docuseries, including the aftermath of the 2014 NFL Draft, when the Browns selected him with the 22nd overall pick.
“[It] didn’t take me very long to be in Cleveland to find out that I wasn’t gonna be happy there,” Manziel said.
“I had every single thing that I could’ve ever wanted. You have money, you have fame, you’re a first-round draft pick battling for a starting quarterback position, and when I got everything that I wanted, I think I was the most empty that I’ve ever felt inside.”
Manziel’s agent, Erik Burkhardt, “started seeing signs pretty early on in Cleveland” that his client was unhappy in his new NFL reality.
“He’d call me after practice, like, ‘I don’t… Man, it’s not fun anymore,’” Burkhardt recalled.
The only solace Manziel felt he could find was in the confines of his own home in Cleveland.
“I would look out those windows every day and I just felt empty,” he said.
Between the “whirlwind ride of 2012 in College Station [where Texas A&M is located],” to the Heisman Trophy, not to mention another season of college football before the NFL Draft, Manziel felt as if he “didn’t get a break.”
“I’m supposed to be the savior. You know, I’m just looking for a good day,” Manziel said. “In the back of my head all the time, I was telling myself, ‘You do not wanna f–kin’ be here,’ and ‘Do what you need to do to get out.’”
Manziel’s two seasons in Cleveland were riddled with scandals and hard-partying controversies, perhaps the most famous being a misadventure to Las Vegas in January 2016, where he attempted to go incognito in order to avoid the Browns’ ire.
He was cut from the team in March 2016, with Manziel likening the move to “the biggest weight lifted off my shoulders ever.”
As loved ones attempted to get Manziel help — he entered rehab in February 2015, when still a member of the Browns — his relationships with his family deteriorated, with Burkhardt also dropping him as a client.
“The people around me, closest to me, were in the mindset of, ‘We have to let him go.’ And, you know, when that happened, it was a full-blown, ‘I’m gonna rub this whole thing in your f–king face,’” Manziel said.
The quarterback’s drug use ramped up, as he “was mostly doing a lot of coke and taking Oxys.”
His weight also dropped from 215 pounds to 175 pounds in the span of nine months.
Realizing “the ride was over,” Manziel left Los Angeles and returned to his native Texas, where he showed up at his family’s front door.
“Pretty much [said], ‘I don’t have anywhere else to turn, man,’” Manziel said.
Two years after his NFL ouster, Manziel spoke candidly about his struggles with substance abuse in a 2018 interview with “Good Morning America,” as well as his bipolar diagnosis.
“I think people do maybe worry about me sometimes, but I mean… that’s natural. You know, I’ve given them reason to do that,” Manziel said in the Netflix series.
“I didn’t go into Texas A&M thinking I was gonna play two years and end up in the NFL Draft … And I tell people all the time, it wouldn’t have mattered where I was at, what team. Wherever it was at that point in time in my life, I was incapable of being a good NFL quarterback.”
At this point in time, though, that lifestyle “feels like a distant memory” for Manziel.
“I’m very much on the pursuit of happiness in a way more simplistic form than I was years ago,” he said.
“Untold: Johnny Football” debuts on Netflix on Tuesday, Aug. 8.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or are experiencing a mental health crisis and live in New York City, you can call 1-888-NYC-WELL for free and confidential crisis counseling. If you live outside the five boroughs, you can dial the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or go to SuicidePreventionLifeline.org.
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