Long before Johnny Manziel became the backup quarterback on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in an attempt to revive his NFL career, he was a hyped quarterback prospect coming out of Texas A&M with a Heisman Trophy attached to his name. The Browns would eventually take him in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft before he flamed out of the league after two seasons due to poor play, excessive partying, and an alleged assault of his then-girlfriend, but there was a point in time when a team as respected as the Patriots were somewhat interested in Manziel as a prospect.
Manziel recently opened up about his experience visiting the Patriots before the 2014 NFL Draft. It went just about as you’d expect, in that before it even began it was a Category 5 disaster.
Telling the story on his new Barstool Sports podcast “Comeback SZN,” Manziel said that when he got to New England, he decided to go to the store to buy some dinner and a nice bottle of wine. The plan, he said, was to watch a movie and relax since he wasn’t sure how the visit was going to unfold. These are the Patriots, after all.
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Upon getting back to his hotel room, Manziel realized that he didn’t have a bottle opener. Afraid of calling room service for a bottle opener and having word get back to Bill Belichick that he was drinking, Manziel tried to open the bottle without an opener. He ended up spraying red wine everywhere – on the walls, the ceiling, and the bed. Worried, he called his agent and asked him if the Patriots would find out that he wrecked the hotel room.
And then he got a FaceTime from Rob Gronkowski, who had just gotten out of practice and decided to pay Manziel a visit. The two proceeded to play ping-pong and drink beers together.
Below, you can listen to Manziel explain what happened in his own words.
And here’s a full transcript, via NESN’s Zack Cox:
Manziel: “My first-ever visit whenever we were going through the draft was in New England. I have no idea what’s about to happen. I fly to Boston, go to Patriot Place, check in to the hotel, call (my agent, Erik Burkhardt) and I’m like, ‘All right, man, what should I be doing? I’m here at, like, 4 or 5 o’clock.’ He’s like, ‘Just kick back, have some dinner, stay in your room. You never know. It’s the Patriots. You never really know what’s going to go on. Pretty much don’t do anything that I wouldn’t do, for the most part.’ … “So I’m like, you know what, I’m going to walk over here to this grocery store. I’m going to get some food. I’m going to get a nice bottle of wine. I’m just going to sit here and watch a movie, and I’m going to hang out. I get back to the room, I go to open the bottle of wine, and I don’t have a bottle opener. So I’m like, you know what, EB told me not to do anything that he wouldn’t do.”
Burkhardt: “First of all, why are you opening a bottle of wine? … Look, I’m the old father of two. I’m the old head here. I love a great bottle of red wine at the end of every night. But he’s visiting the freaking New England Patriots. They’re paying for the room. They’re paying for dinner. The $69 bottle of wine — nothing wrong with the wine, but that’s an argument in and of itself.”
Manziel: “Just going to have a steak, have a bottle of wine, watch a movie. Just a really relaxing night. Really relaxing night. No bottle opener, so I’m like, you know what, I’m going to have to do this old school.”
Burkhardt: “It always starts with no bottle opener. How about you call room service and be like, ‘Bring me a bottle opener’?”
Manziel: “And then Bill Belichick is on the other end of the phone like, ‘Oh, really, Mr. Manziel? You want a bottle opener? We’ll see you later. Go back home.’ That was my thought process — (that) there were cameras in the room everywhere, that anything I called and asked for would be directly relayed to the Patriots for the most part, because I figured that’s how they would be. So I’m like, I’m going to go ahead and just push the cork into the bottle and just thug it out. The second I did that, it sprayed like a bottle of champagne all over the room. The walls, the white bed. There was half a bottle of red wine dripping from the ceiling. … Everywhere — all over the walls, all over the room, dripping, everything. I remember calling EB and being like, ‘You think the Patriots are going to get the report of what standing this room is in after the time I check out of here, because it’s going to take me at least a day and a half to clean this (expletive) off the walls, off the ceiling, new bedsheets, everything.”
Burkhardt: “The story gets better. Then what happened that night?”
Manziel: “Well, after that failed attempt to try and be on the good side of my visits, I get a FaceTime from Gronk. And as I answer, he’s like, ‘You’re here for your visit. I just saw on Twitter.’ He’s like, ‘I’m outside your hotel.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, that was quick.’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, I just got out of practice. You want to hang out?’ That escalated probably a little bit more than just having a bottle of wine in the hotel room. But for as big as he is, that guy can actually play some Ping-Pong. I was really surprised. And maybe drank a couple beers.”
So yeah, none of that is at all surprising. It’s not surprising that Manziel would be so paranoid that he thought the Patriots would be eavesdropping on his calls to room service (Spygate anyone?). It’s not surprising that Gronk would want to party with Manziel. And it’s not surprising that Manziel abandoned his quiet plans to go drink beers with Gronk. Finally, it’s also not surprising that the Patriots did not trade up to draft Manziel, who went on to become one of the most disastrous first-round busts in recent years.
After a hiatus from football, Manziel reappeared this year as he tries to get another shot in the NFL. He opened up about his battle with bipolar disorder and revealed that he’s gotten sober, while getting the surprising chance to audition for NFL teams at the University of San Diego’s Pro Day and later, the Spring League. Still, Manziel was unable to convince a team to sign him, which isn’t surprising given all of the factors that led to his career’s demise – the most alarming of which was the alleged assault (the charges were later dismissed after he reached a plea deal).
In May, Manziel signed a two-year deal with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and has since played in two preseason games, both of which have gone relatively well. Manziel, 25, still faces a long road back to the NFL, but if he can win the Tiger-Cats’ starting job, perform well, and prove that he’s capable of being a dedicated teammate and football player, he might just be able to make his way back into the NFL – albeit as a far less promising prospect than he was back in 2014.