The announcement by Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel that he has decided to check into rehab can be a turning point in his life. Although only "lifestyle off the field" was referenced and I don't know the specific facts, rehab generally is the treatment for substance abuse. When someone is out of control in their use of alcohol, they generally are the last to recognize it.
Addiction is a disease. It fits all the classical definitions of disease. It affects an organ -- the brain. It is chronic and progressive and without help it gets worse. A large part of the public still does not accept that diagnosis. They believe the substance abuser lacks willpower and they are choosing to be "bad" and self-destructive. If only it worked that way.
Manziel knows he is a household name and that such an admission carries consequences. Because he is gifted and wealthy, many will have little sympathy. It takes an act of courage to break denial and do what's necessary to get healthy. When a player wins the Heisman Trophy in his first year playing college football and is surrounded by adulation, it does not do much to keep him based in reality base.
ESPN essentially turned into the "Manziel network" and built its college football season around his star power. He has a unique ability to extend a play that is electrifying to watch. I remember being on book tour in the spring of 2014 and everywhere across the country I was a guest on talk radio, his future was the first topic. He was the first college superstar to face the heightened scrutiny of a massive social and electronic celebrity making machine. Some of what happened in college made a huge story out of typical sophomore behavior. Johnny was drafted much lower than his skill dictated in 2014.
Because the first year transition from college to pro quarterbacking is a huge leap, it is hard to look dominant in the first year of a quarterback career. Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and RGIII were aberrations that put more pressure on the next group of young quarterbacks. This is why I urged young quarterbacks to put football before everything else and win the confidence of the owner, management, coaches and other players before having a high profile. Part of the celebrity focus was not of his making, but much was, and it put undue pressure on him.
I have experienced the need to refocus in a rehabilitation environment in my own battle with alcohol. We do not throw young men on the trash heap of history for youthful mistakes. No one wants to be judged by their worst behavior as they go through maturation. We should be proud of Johnny Manziel for showing the courage to face his demons. The NFL will be more exciting and interesting with a productive Johnny Manziel as part of it. Finding himself and following a 12-step program is the first priority, and stopping whatever his problem is so that his health is not endangered.
Myself and millions are praying for you, Johnny!
-- Leigh Steinberg has represented many of the most successful athletes and coaches in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, boxing and golf, including the first overall pick in the NFL draft an unprecedented eight times, among more than 60 first-round selections. His clients have included Hall of Fame quarterbacks Steve Young, Troy Aikman and Warren Moon, and he served as the inspiration for the movie "Jerry Maguire." Follow him on Twitter @leighsteinberg.