The upcoming Netflix documentary Untold: Johnny Football provides an intimate look at the extraordinary yet controversial football star Johnny Manziel. Tracking his legendary college career, dramatic NFL flameout, and ongoing personal struggles, this film examines the meteoric ascent and tumultuous downfall of “Johnny Football.” Featuring revealing interviews with Manziel himself and those closest to him, it promises a gripping profile of a sports phenom who flew too close to the sun.
The Story of Johnny Football
Texas-born Manziel was a raw but prodigiously gifted quarterback who fell in love with improvisational football at an early age. After a redshirt freshman year at Texas A&M, he shattered records in 2012 by becoming the first freshman to capture college football’s highest honor, the Heisman Trophy. Dazzling fans with his freewheeling scramble plays and gunslinger passing style, the small but slippery Manziel led A&M to a stunning upset win over national champion Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
Seemingly overnight, the dynamic Manziel became a folk hero and cultural sensation, morphing into “Johnny Football.” He partied with stars like Drake and LeBron James, signed lucrative endorsement deals, and saw his jersey become a top seller. But controversy also swirled about his brash swagger, on-field antics, and hard-partying lifestyle. Though a force of nature on the field, worries emerged off it about his maturity to handle celebrity pressures.
The Cleveland Browns still took a chance by drafting Manziel 22nd overall in 2014. But Manziel’s NFL dreams quickly crumbled amidst even wilder partying and unprofessional behavior. Showing up late and unprepared, Manziel lost the locker room and disappointed mentors like Josh McCown. As his life spiraled out of control, the struggling Manziel dealt with substance abuse issues and stints in rehab. The Browns cut him in 2016 after only two seasons littered with scandal and squandered potential.
After failed comeback attempts in the CFL and short-lived Alliance of American Football, Manziel now seeks to rebuild his life after football. Sober and humbled by his dramatic downward spiral, he aims to make amends, raise awareness about mental health issues, and share hard-learned lessons on managing adversity.
Johnny Manziel – The central subject, Manziel speaks candidly about his legendary yet controversial football journey. Viewers see his electrifying college highlights, regrettable downfall, and ongoing recovery process.
Mike Evans – Manziel’s favorite target at Texas A&M, Evans reminisces on their unstoppable chemistry torching college defenses together. Evans became an NFL Pro Bowl wide receiver.
Drake – The global rap superstar recalls his friendship with Manziel, from partying together at the height of “Johnny Football” mania to trying to help during his downward spiral.
LeBron James – The NBA icon reflects on witnessing firsthand Manziel mania exploding on the Texas A&M campus when they worked out together in 2012.
Josh McCown – The 19-year NFL veteran quarterback took Manziel under his wing in Cleveland, only to become disenchanted by his poor work ethic and immaturity.
Kliff Kingsbury – Manziel’s coach at Texas A&M, Kingsbury helped build a record-shattering offense tailored to his scrambling improvisational skills.
The Rise of Johnny Football
The documentary chronicles Manziel’s larger-than-life ascent at Texas A&M during the 2012 season. Under innovative coach Kliff Kingsbury, the undersized Manziel shredded defenses with creative run plays and backyard passing tricks that echoed the improvisational “air raid” style Manziel honed in high school.
Thriving under the national spotlight, Manziel played with joyful abandon and showman flair. A breathtaking scrambler who kept plays alive with his legs, Manziel paired uncanny passing accuracy on the run with underrated arm strength. Teaming up with star receiver Evans, Manziel led A&M to statement wins over national powers like Alabama and Auburn that brought “Johnny Football” mania to a fever pitch.
Beyond the gridiron, the documentary also profiles Manziel’s rockstar lifestyle at the peak of his fame. Viewers see candid behind-the-scenes footage of Manziel partying with Drake, playing golf with LeBron, and reaping the off-field spoils of his unprecedented celebrity for a college athlete. But signs emerge that Manziel chafes under the massive attention and crushing pressure placed on a 20-year old.
Downward Spiral in the NFL
After being drafted in the first round by the Cleveland Browns in 2014, Manziel arrives full of swagger. But his prodigious talent could not overcome his immaturity, undisciplined work habits, and deepening substance abuse problems. Veteran teammates like McCown express dismay and disappointment at Manziel’s entitled behavior and lack of preparation. As controversy swirls over late nights partying in Las Vegas during the season, Manziel’s lack of focus becomes painfully apparent in ugly on-field performances. His brief NFL career spirals out of control.
Archival footage captures the disastrous downward trajectory, from domestic disputes to a public intoxication arrest to entered rehab stints. In 2016, after only two seasons, the Browns cut Manziel as his life and career careen off the rails. Painful interviews with family members hint at the depth of Manziel’s off-field struggles with addiction, mental health issues, and finding new purpose after football stardom.
Attempted Comeback & Life After Football
Sober, reflective interviews with the present-day Manziel reveal him still processing his dramatic rise and fall. He admits to feeling unfulfilled chasing the high of his football glory days. After failed comebacks in Canada and elsewhere, Manziel seems resigned his playing days are likely over.
But he also expresses determination to write a new chapter focused on raising mental health awareness, repairing damaged relationships, and sharing hard-learned wisdom. Manziel discusses working through lingering regrets over mistakes, substance abuse, and squandered opportunities. While displaying humility about his missteps, he remains proud of his magical college accomplishments.
Early reviews praise Untold: Johnny Football as a thoughtful and surprisingly layered profile of a flawed sports icon still working to change his life. Critics highlight the documentary’s candid interviews and balanced perspective:
“An empathetic portrayal of a fallen superstar now seeking redemption” – Los Angeles Times
“Raw and intimate access to a troubled yet captivating figure” – Rolling Stone
“An eye-opening look at both the exhilarating highs and crushing lows of Manziel’s journey” – Variety
Overall, Untold: Johnny Football presents a nuanced picture of an immensely talented athlete who achieved sports immortality, but still struggles with managing pressures, relationships, and the consequences of his actions. Manziel’s story serves as a cautionary tale about privilege, accountability, and the perils of fame at a young age. More than just an exhilarating highlights reel, the film provides context around who Manziel is beyond his public persona as he navigates the next phase of his life. This layered profile examines both the outstanding gifts and ongoing personal growth of a uniquely polarizing sports figure.