"Johnny didn't start [playing football] until sixth grade. Most of the kids on the team started playing in second grade. His mother and his grandmother refused to let him play because they were afraid he was going to get hurt. He walked in, and the kid who had been the quarterback for four years immediately went to wide receiver. We went from throwing the ball five or six times a game to 30 times a game. He made a lot of the same kind of plays he makes now. We'd look at each other on the sideline and say, 'Wow, where did that come from?'"
—Jacky Lee, former coach of the Tyler Hurricanes youth team
Friday Night Sight
In 2007, Manziel arrived at Tivy High. He joined the varsity as a sophomore, playing receiver, tailback and some quarterback. He took over the starting quarterback job the following season, as a junior. During Johnny's two seasons as the starter, he led Tivy to a 19--7 record, losing in the playoffs each year to a team that went on to play for the state title. In 2010, Manziel was named Texas's player of the year by the state's sports editors. Manziel's personal highlight from that 2010 season wasn't a touchdown he scored, but rather one he helped orchestrate to reward a dedicated teammate.
"I don't have time to go through the many times in high school that we were down and he rallied us back. The kid just has it. I wouldn't say he ever voiced that, but he would talk in a manner that infused confidence in everybody around him. It didn't matter the odds."
—Julius Scott, former Tivy High offensive coordinator
"We were a small town, but we were 4A [the second-largest classification in the state]. It still had that small-town feel, but we played in a bigger division in Texas. Places were closed down on Friday nights. The stadium was packed." [Antler Stadium seats 6,000 but held crowds estimated to be as large as 9,000 during Johnny's senior year.]
"We have four or five losses in the last four or five years, and two of them have been to that kid. To say nothing negative about Johnny's teammates, but we were by far the more athletic team each time we played. We could not figure out how this guy kept beating us. Our kids would come to the sideline and say, 'Coach, we can't catch him!' I was like, What do you mean you can't catch him? To watch Nick Saban and Will Muschamp have the same looks on their faces that I did, I feel much better now."