For the first time in over two years on Saturday, Johnny Manziel took snaps in a competitive football game.
Playing in The Spring League in Austin, Texas, Manziel quarterbacked the South team for around two quarters in total, completing more than 50 percent of his passes and throwing a touchdown pass in an 11-7 loss.
Manziel was 9 of 15 for 83 yards and a touchdown, but also took three sacks. The former Cleveland Browns first-round pick had the ball down four points with just two minutes to go, but couldn't pull off the comeback.
After the game, Manziel was irked by the result, but pleased that he was back playing football.
"It was good to be back on the field," Manziel told a gaggle of reporters on the field immediately following the game. "I'm frustrated right now. First quarter was short, being in there. But nevertheless, I mean, on the field with two minutes left to win the game... I'm pissed right now. Trying to shake it off a little bit.
"It's our first game. We shot ourselves with mistakes. I mean, we practiced a lot, a lot of stuff this week. But I mean it's a showcase game. It's a quick two-week, two-game spring league. So as frustrated as I am now, I made it through the two quarters that I did play. I'm healthy. Had fun. I had fun nonetheless. The touchdown in the first quarter was fun. But it's just a sour, sour taste right now."
Manziel's first-quarter touchdown was vintage Johnny Football -- a scramble out to the right followed by an off-balance dart to the back of the end zone to former Baylor receiver Antwan Goodley.
Manziel last played a game for the Browns on Dec. 27, 2015, after which he was released and spiraled out of football completely. After a two-year hiatus from the game during which he battled addiction and a bipolar disorder, Manziel chose to attempt a comeback, marketing his return to football as his #ComebackSZN.
Manziel has been working out in Southern California and recently threw at pro days for the University of San Diego and Texas A&M in front of NFL scouts. His football rights are currently held by the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
But as Manziel told reporters on Saturday, this first game back felt like more than just a return to football.
"The main thing, #ComebackSZN for me is like no matter where I end up and no matter what happens football-wise," Manziel explained, "at least my life, at least, you know, I've repaired a lot of relationships that needed work, I've repaired a lot of myself that needed a lot of work and I'm able to run back on the field, something I didn't know if I'd ever get a chance to do again.
"So it's disappointing, some of the things that happened, but nevertheless this is a huge step for me. I put pads back on. A lot of people would have just wrote me off to even get to this point. I'm definitely emotional about it. I'm definitely happy about it. This isn't the end goal for me, but I'm having fun again. You know, guys talking s* on the field, I'm having fun. I had a smile on my face. You know, I'll be pissed off when I go back and watch this during the night, but at least I know we come back out here in four days again and we play again."
Manziel and the rest of his Spring League colleagues will indeed play again Thursday at Kelly Reeves Stadium in Austin.