Johnny Manziel hits the Big O field for first practice day as a Montreal Alouette

Johnny Manziel flanked by the Montreal Alouettes coach Mike Sherman to the left and the team's general manager Kavis Reid to the right. Monday July 23, 2018.
Johnny Manziel flanked by the Montreal Alouettes coach Mike Sherman to the left and the team's general manager Kavis Reid to the right. Monday July 23, 2018. Global News

The man known as “Johnny Football,” quarterback Johnny Manziel, took his very first steps on to the field of the Big O as a Montreal Alouette Monday afternoon.

After being traded by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Manziel landed in Montreal in the morning and was at practice by 4:00 p.m.

He’d only been in the city for a few hours, but many expectations had already been placed on the 25 year-old some hope could be the crucial missing piece for the Als.

READ MORE: Hamilton Tiger-Cats trade Johnny Manziel to Montreal Alouettes

The team is on a bad losing streak, having won only one out of the last 16 games they’ve played.

Desperate for a win, all eyes are now on the new quarterback.

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Not a saviour

Since losing Anthony Calvillo to retirement, the Al’s haven’t been able to fill the shoes of the man who led them to the Grey Cup on three occasions.

The team has been crumbling ever since Calvillo’s departure, but the promise of Manziel shines bright with a past full of accolades.

The young man started his college football career with a bang, becoming the first freshman to win the Heisman trophy — the top award in college football in America — before being immediately picked up by the Cleveland Browns as a first-round draft pick.

Nonetheless, Alouettes’ general manager Kavis Reid says Manziel was not traded to rescue the team.

“We did not trade for Johnny for Johnny to be the saviour,” Reid said.

“We traded for him to be a part of this, thus the reason we included very important pieces such as Landon Rice and Tony Washington.”

READ MORE: Rick Zamperin: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it’s time for Johnny Football

Manziel was part of a five-player deal that cost the Alouettes defensive end Jamaal Westerman, receiver Chris Williams and two first-round draft picks — one in 2020 and another in 2021.

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“We do not feel the price was too high for the potential we are receiving,” Reid said. “Draft picks are like a lottery; you never know what you’ll get.”

Emotional baggage

Watch above: Cleveland Browns Quarterback Johnny Manziel’s roadside argument with his girlfriend could lead to punishment from the NFL.

Even on a fresh start in Montreal, Manziel was confronted with ghosts of mistakes past, with reporters questioning the Als’ new quaterback on whether he has left his old ways behind. During his NFL stint with the Browns, the young man was given to partying and admitted to alcohol abuse. There were multiple scandals in his personal life, too, including allegations of abuse against an ex-girlfriend.

His troubles ultimately cost him his NFL career, being released by the Browns after two tumultuous seasons.

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“There was a point in time where my life went down a path I never imagined my life going down,” Manziel told Montreal reporters. “I still wake up to this day and have nightmares and have a multitude of bad thoughts of my past.”

“I’m trying to put it behind me the best I can and the best I know how.”


Manziel and the Alouettes’ coach, Mike Sherman, are no strangers to each other. During their college stints, Sherman recruited Manziel to Texas A&M University.

“The first person that I ever had when I was away from my parents as a father figure was coach Sherman,” Manziel said. “I’m excited to be back around him. It’s exactly what I need in this time in my life.”

“One of the first things I said to him when I walked into my office is, ‘this has to work and it will work,'” Sherman said.

When asked if Manziel would play on Thursday against the Edmonton Eskimos, Sherman said he doesn’t want to put added pressure on his new quarterback and will give him a chance to learn the playbook. However, he added, “we didn’t bring him here to have him sit on the bench, obviously.”