DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - While "Johnny Fan Controlled Football" doesn't have the same ring to it as his more familiar nickname, Johnny Manziel is back on a football field getting ready to help a startup league. The former Heisman Trophy winner, though, says not to assume he's trying to make his way back to the NFL.
"This isn't a redemption story, a comeback story or anything like that," said Manziel. "This is, come out and have some fun for 6 weeks, see if I can't help some other guys."
Manziel practiced on Tuesday at Atlanta Silverbacks Park in DeKalb County with the new Fan Controlled Football league. It's a six-week spring football venture, where fans can watch games online and vote live on the decision the team will make, including what plays the team will run.
The former Texas A&M star and first-round pick by the Browns says he was attracted to the league by a friend of his, comedian and social media personality Bob Menery, who is a part-owner of one of the FCF teams. Manziel, who also played in the Canadian Football League and the short-lived Alliance of American Football, and has had well-publicized off-field troubles.
Manziel says his future is not on the football field, but in business ventures. He wants to offer his football and life experiences to the younger players in the FCF who are still trying to pursue pro football dreams.
"I'm here as much as a player as I am a coach, a mentor for some of these guys who are going through it and trying to get to the next level," said Manziel. "All these guys are trying to go on and continue their career, I'm on a little bit of a different path. After this, I don't know if I'll pick up a football again in a serious, competitive space. Just trying to have fun and enjoy the days that I have out here."
Former NFL player and FCF commissioner/co-founder Ray Austin says he's happy to see Manziel at practice, engaging with other players and smiling.
"The NFL is just so serious, you have to be on your game at all times," said Austin. "We're opening this up for players to have fun, and I think that's what he was attracted to. I think he wants to relax, play football and bring it back to when football was fun."
As for the league, Fan Controlled Football is an intriguing idea to the quarterback. Games start on Saturday at Gwinnett County's Infinite Energy Arena, and they will be broadcast live online on the streaming service Twitch.
"I think it has a lot of potential," said Manziel. "As we've seen over the years, there's a little bit of a niche for spring football. I think this gives great input for people to go on the app, pick plays, have input on the game, and we'll see how it goes."
The FCF is even letting fans draft the teams, which will take place online on Wednesday night. Manziel is a "franchise player," and will play for the Zappers, which is the team owned by his friend Menery.
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