Former high school teammates and coach reflect on Manziel they knew

Courtesy of Aggie Athletics

Johnny Manziel's high school teammates and coach remember him as selfless and hardworking.

At the timeout, Johnny Manziel ran over to the sideline and gave his Tivy High School football team instructions instead of receiving them. He wanted his teammate Robert Martinez, a wide receiver that rarely played, to get in the game.

Manziel instructed Martinez to line up as the running back. He snapped the ball and helped truck Martinez into the end zone. Martinez scored his first rushing touchdown for Tivy.

This is the play then-head football coach Mark Smith remembers the most out of Manziel’s high school football career.

“To see the look on the kid’s face and his mother’s afterwards meant more than any play he could make on the field,” Smith said. “He inspired him to believe he could accomplish things.”

The selfless act was typical of Manziel, Smith said. Despite the media ruckus Manziel stirred up this summer from getting kicked out of a fraternity party, leaving the Peyton Manning Passing Academy early, and ultimately being suspended for the first 30 minutes of Texas A&M’s opening game.

Smith feels the world is seeing Manziel through a faulty lens.

“The story’s not always being told accurately, I think,” Smith said. “He’s been portrayed somewhat as a kid that’s carefree and loose, but I don’t think that’s Johnny at all.

“He is 20 years old, and he’s learning how to deal with situations that most 20-year- olds deal with.”

Nothing about Manziel was normal after becoming the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy in 2012. Winning the Heisman marked the beginning of “Johnny Football” and the end of Johnny Manziel, the 6-foot-1, 210-pound boy out of the small town of Kerrville, Texas.

But not to his former teammates.

Braedon White, a former wide receiver for Tivy who was briefly with Texas-San Antonio before a heart condition ended his career, spoke highly of Manziel’s ability to remain levelheaded especially when the offers began to pour in from Division I programs.

“He didn’t really talk about it, it’s almost like he didn’t want to do it,” White said. “I mean the guy’s good. He knew he was good. He just didn’t showboat it.”

Manziel let his hard work do the talking.

In high school Manziel began his career as a wide receiver.

“When he got out there he took care of business and he had fun doing it,” said former high school teammate Kyle Prater, who also played at Rice. “A lot of us out there mess around and cut up at practice but not him, he went out and worked hard.”

Prater didn’t interact with Manziel often because he was a linebacker, but right away he knew he was special. He was adamant about bettering his teammates or himself.

On Saturday mornings Manziel was the first one up and at Tivy to watch film.

He realized at quarterback he made a lot of plays with his feet so he resorted to becoming a pocket passer. Sophomore season he won the starting job.

“He is a competitor, there’s no doubt about it,” Smith said. “He may be the most competitive guy I’ve ever coached in my life.”

He was right. Even still, Manziel watched film on himself every Saturday. Manziel’s transition to a running and pocket-passing quarterback came fast. After just his third game of the season, Texas A&M made its offer. He opted out of Oregon’s program to be closer to home.

“He liked Oregon, he enjoyed it, but more so it would give his family the opportunity to be closer to him,” Smith said. “He made a decision to go to A&M based on his family values and his love for his family.”

Many former teammates and coaches couldn’t be happier for Manziel because despite all the fame, when they talk to him he is that same kid from Tivy.

“He cracks jokes on himself and other friends, he just knows how to make people laugh,” White said. “If I had to tell him something it would be don’t let anything change him.”


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