Lebanese American Heisman Trophy winner Manziel lags 22nd in draft to the Cleveland Browns
By Ray Hanania
Not everyone knows that NFL Quarterback Johnny Manziel, 22, is of Lebanese American heritage, so that can’t be a reason why he took a 22nd seat draft last week moving from Texas A&M to the Cleveland Browns.
The 2012 Heisman Memorial Trophy Award winner, Manziel was the most anticipated professional football player to enter the draft last Thursday at the Radio City Music Hall in New York. The news noted that he sat sullen-faced as picks were made, awaiting his, until the Cleveland Browns.
It was like a scene from the Clint Eastwood movie “Trouble with the Curve,” which although is about baseball is the story of a scout who fights the younger scouts to pick the best candidates for the pro-team, but don’t until the very end.
Manziel, nicknamed “Johnny Football,” should have been the first pick. But the Cleveland Browns lucked out to get him as their third pick of the annual sports draft event and Manziel was ecstatic. While playing for Texas A&M University, Manziel broke numerous NCAA, FBS and SEC football records including becoming the first freshman and fifth player in NCAA history to pass for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in one season. During his record-setting performance as quarterback of the Texas Aggies, he earned his nickname “Johnny Football” for his spectacular performance. The nickname is now trademarked for him.
Manziel is the great grandson of Texas oil wildcatter Bobby Manziel who grew up in Arkansas and was a sportswriter for the Fort Smith newspaper. Bobby Joe Manziel was also a bantamweight boxer known as “The Syrian Kid” when he was younger and who was friends of and sparred with the great boxer Jack Dempsey. Click to read more. It was Dempsey who loaned the broke Manziel the money in the 1930s to invest in oil drilling in Gladewater where he stuck a huge oil find to become one of the richest families in East Texas. The first oil well was called the “Johnny Manziel-Jack Dempsey” Oil Field Number 1. Manziel went on with Dempsey to discover nine fabulously productive oil fields and named each one after one of his children.
It was Johnny Manziel’s Great Great Grandfather, Yusef or Joseph Manziel who immigrated to America from Mt. Lebanon in 1883 with his wife Mary and two year old son Esahiah, who later took the name “Bobby Joe.” They settled in Louisiana but later migrated to Arkansas. The family was constantly plagued by controversy that included allegations of scams, murder and larceny. In most cases, the rumors fed reputations rather than facts but have remained in the family’s colorful American saga. Click to read more.
Manziel isn’t the only successful sportsman to play in a professional league. Manziel’s hero was 1984 Heisman winner Doug Flutie from Boston College, who is also of Lebanese ancestry. Manziel was 11 when a 41-year-old Flutie beat the odds and returned to the NFL after having been traded to the Canadian Football League. Other famous American sportsmen and sports owners include John Elway, Abe Gibran, Fred Maalouf,George Maloof, Joe Robbie, Bill George and Blackhawks Stanley Cup player Brandon Saad. Click here for a partial list.
Everyone is excited to see Johnny Football perform this coming season for the Cleveland Browns.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and political columnist. He is managing editor of the Arab Daily News at www.TheArabDailyNews.com.)
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