Johnny Manziel seeking victory in overcoming 'Johnny Football'

BEREA, Ohio -- It's not tough to answer when people ask what Johnny Manziel is like.

In the brief moments I've had the chance to deal with him personally -- and there have not been a lot -- Manziel has been polite, direct, cordial and friendly. He looks you in the eye, he shakes hands, he uses first names and leaves you walking away thinking that he's a pretty nice guy.

So when Manziel admits the "Johnny Football" persona that he helped create became too big of a monster for him to control, it's not hard to feel sympathy for him.

Manziel seemed sincere when he addressed the Browns media Wednesday. He admitted he was a distraction last season to the team and said he felt bad about that. He said his off-field life has been documented far too often and far too in-depth, and he wanted to suffocate that. And he said that "Johnny Football" took over his life, and he admitted he bought into that.

He even called his first season in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns "a disaster."

"It was what it was and it was not very good," Manziel said. "For me, I'm trying to close that chapter and build on what I've done so far this year and just move forward. Really just try and close that chapter in my life. Not one that I'm very proud of, not one that I want to look back on very much and dwell back on, that's for sure."

He might never totally shed that past -- there's always someone seeking an autograph at a golf tournament, after all -- but he stressed that his actions will speak for him.

Manziel admitted that many of his past issues were a result of immaturity. He now says he's taking active steps to put himself in the best position "to be exactly what this organization drafted me to be."

He's said many of the same things before about doing the right things. Last February, in a much-celebrated pre-draft interview, he said he wanted to be done with "Johnny Football" and leave that in the past. He's saying the same now.

The difference? He's saying it after 10 weeks of rehab, which he entered voluntarily.

Coach Mike Pettine has always talked about Manziel becoming more complete off the field, which would help him become more complete on the field.

At some point, how things go on the field will determine Manziel's long-term future in Cleveland. Pettine stressed it's still early for Manziel in learning a new offense, but said it will stop being early in the preseason, when the Browns face other teams.

Until then, Manziel must continue to try to shed the monster that has followed him since it was created, around the time he became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy in 2012 at Texas A&M.

Since he left rehab, Manziel has focused on staying off social media. He's changed his residence. He's brought a former high school coach to town to be around him more. And he's admitted he will junk the "money sign" that became so much a trademark of him, his success and his "Johnny Football" persona.

If he can truly junk "Johnny Football," well that would be his greatest victory.