May 8, 2014, was the night when Johnny Manziel's professional football career began, and less than five years later, it was over.
The former first-round pick's flameout is well known as this point, but what isn't is his football future. Last we'd seen of him, he was on an Alliance of American Football field as part of the Memphis Express before that league -- much like Manziel's NFL career -- abruptly collapsed. These days, he's golfing and enjoying life more than he ever did as Johnny Football.
"In the past, probably, is the way I'd characterize it," Manziel said of his football career, per the Lubbock Avalance-Journal's Don Williams. "I've finally got to a point where I'm trying to achieve happiness in life, not happiness on the football field.
"I know a lot of people probably want me to come back and play and give it another chance, but I don't know, as far as being a person and figuring out life as a young adult -- trying to make it and figure it out -- if I've ever been in a better place than I'm in right now. I can honestly say I'm happy and I'm doing the right things to try and put a smile on my face every day, and that means more to me than going out and grinding on a football field."
Happiness is the goal of anyone's life, of course, and while Manziel sure made his successful on-field moments appear to be filled with nothing but glee, it is a bit surprising to hear a former Heisman Trophy winner and No. 22 overall pick say he's feeling better not playing football than he did while he was being paid to do so. Manziel, once so on top of the world that he was being name-dropped by the most popular rappers on the planet (see: Drake's "Draft Day"), is glad he was knocked from his throne before the fall became too steep to survive.
"I had a great time," Manziel said. "Anytime I ever stepped between the lines, I had an amazing time. I gave it everything I had.
"I think it's just, the work you put in when you have the free hours and when you do things on your own, that matches up accordingly with what happens on the field. And when you get to thinking that you're too good or you're better than the game, it'll humble you. And that's what happened. I got humbled. Thank God I did get a chance to be humbled, because when you think you're at the top of the world, it's a dangerous place."
Manziel spent more of his free time enjoying his fame than he did preparing for the game that helped him achieve such fame, which his former teammates (and Manziel himself) will readily admit. It was obvious he wasn't ready for his first professional start, a 30-0 drubbing at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals that contributed to a late-season collapse in 2014, and his struggles continued from there.
His career didn't end with his release from the Browns in 2016, though, as Canada came calling, offering him a chance to play with both the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Montreal Alouettes. He was eventually banned from the entire league before he could make much of an impact.
"During that time when I got drafted, I didn't put in the time that I needed to be a great player and I don't think my heart was in it," Manziel said. "And I think when I went back to Canada, it was the same way. I truly believed and truly thought it was what I wanted to do, and my heart wasn't in it, and it worked out the way it did."
His last hurrah came with the AAF, which ended before Manziel or the rest of the league could really get going. Now, it sounds as if Johnny Football's gridiron career will only be a memory -- something with which he seems to be perfectly fine.
"People can call me whatever they want," he said, "but at the end of the day, I'm proud of what I did. I'm proud of what I accomplished. I bettered myself. I bettered my family's life. I got a chance to play amazing college football, and it didn't work out in the NFL and that's OK."