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Johnny Manziel comes home to Kerrville, and is met with warmth only a hometown offers

Inducted into Tivy's Hall of Fame, Manziel honored the school, the community and reflected on the opportunities to play football at the highest level.

Maybe this is what Johnny Manziel really needed — non-judgmental appreciation. On Friday night, Manziel returned to Kerrville for induction into the Tivy High School Hall of Fame.

On the field, it's a no-brainer. Manziel's high school career is storied, his two seasons at Texas A&M were electrifying, and his two seasons in the NFL — well, that's a horror story. But every story should have a redemption arc.

Former Tivy High School quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel speaks to the crowd at Antler Stadium on Sept. 9, 2022

In the years that have passed, Manziel accepted what happened with the Cleveland Browns, and on a warm late summer night, all that mattered was who waited for him — about 300 children.

"I will throw the ball to you in a little bit," Manziel said as he faced a long line of children — mostly middle-school and elementary-school-age boys. They weren't old enough to see him play, but that didn't matter because they understood he was someone important. Maybe their parents saw him play.

Manziel was the first to admit that he came to Kerrville as an angry 13-year-old without friends, but he had sports. Maybe that anger propelled him on the field, where he took the Tivy Antlers to new heights but just short of the state playoffs promised land.

"I am so thankful to be from this place and to have the opportunity to play for this program," said Manziel during the pre-game ceremony, which saw fellow Tivy alums Tamara Poppe and Joe Lara inducted. "It truly was a privilege to play football here in this town, to have the stands look like this every single week, and to have amazing coaches."

This wasn't the Johnny Manziel you'd expect to see on TMZ Sports, but here was someone willing to come home for a high school ceremony. Of course, there was a film crew following him around, but Manziel seemed genuinely interested in making a moment with all around him.

"I was able to take what I learned here in Kerrville, from these coaches, and from this community and what it meant to be a football player here and take that and do extraordinary things that were beyond my wildest dreams," Manziel told the audience.

Manziel's football exploits will be difficult to match, especially the Heisman Trophy award. In the award's long history, only eight players from Texas universities won the trophy.

Originally from Tyler, Manziel matriculated to Kerrville in middle school and became the starting quarterback as a sophomore. He rushed for more than 4,000 yards and threw for more than 7,500. And yet, he was considered only a three-star recruit by most experts.

After a redshirt year, Manziel earned the Texas A&M job and immediately electrified the game. He ran and threw his way for 47 touchdowns en route to the Heisman. His legendary status was affirmed by A&M fans when he led the Aggies to an upset of then No. 1 Alabama — at Tuscaloosa.

A long line of fans wait for their chance to meet Johnny Manziel in Kerrville, Texas on Sept. 9, 2022.

But the sky-high expectations heaped on Heisman winners never helped him succeed in the NFL. He spent two seasons with the Cleveland Browns — the place of seemingly quarterback misery. Still, he wouldn't trade the NFL experience, admitting as much but with the caveat to the opportunity.

"Even though it wasn't as long as I would have liked, I got to live a dream," Manziel said about the NFL.

On this night, Manziel got to fulfill plenty of dreams of kids who wanted a chance to meet someone famous from their hometown, and all of them walked away with a high five, a handshake, some words of encouragement, an autograph, a picture and a smile. But the smile was on the face of Johnny Manziel.

Welcome home, Johnny Football.


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