ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- When Jimmy Landes was drafted last month, his mind went a lot of places. As a long-snapper, he was surprised he was taken in the sixth round by the Detroit Lions. He was excited to know he had a place in the NFL.
Then he thought about an old friend, someone who had been in the NFL a few short months ago: Johnny Manziel.
Landes and Manziel grew up together in Tyler, Texas. They played on the same Little League team and stayed in touch for a while, although Manziel has been more difficult to get a hold of recently. They haven't seen each other in a few years and haven't spoken in months, but Landes has been following what has been going on with the former first-round pick. Every time he sees Manziel’s name come up in the news, it bothers him.
He just wants to help.
“When I got drafted, I told my parents, I get this money. I told [my brother] John this. I said, ‘I get my signing bonus, I want to go find Johnny. Get a plane ticket and go find him. Get with him,’" Landes said Tuesday. “I’d bring J.B. [Moss] with me. Just to be with him and pick apart his mind, like why are you doing this? Why are you doing that?
“Just bring him back down, you know, to the good old Johnny that we all know.”
Landes and Moss were together the last time Landes spoke with Manziel. Landes had gone to Texas A&M to watch one of Moss’ college baseball games. After the game they went to a local bar to eat and saw a painting of Manziel on the wall, so they took a picture in front of it and sent it to Manziel.
He responded by FaceTiming them and they spoke for a few minutes. Landes said he has reached out multiple times since but hasn’t heard back. Landes said they rarely talk. He wishes he would, though.
“I haven’t given up faith in Johnny,” Landes said. “I know he’s got a lot to learn and he’s growing up right now. I haven’t given up on him like a lot of people have. I grew up with him. I know the real Johnny.”
Asked what Manziel that is, he called him “a kind, generous human being” who would “go out for anybody.” He said he was a leader and the guy on their Little League team that they all sensed was destined for big things.
Instead, he sees Manziel in the news now, being charged with misdemeanor assault for allegedly rupturing his ex-girlfriend’s eardrum in January. He sees him being dropped by two agents -- Erik Burkhardt and Drew Rosenhaus -- and having to go to rehab. Manziel was cut by the Cleveland Browns after two seasons. People who have been around Manziel have said he needs help.
Landes said he and Manziel rarely talk, but that he has spoken with Manziel’s sister, Meri. If he could talk to Johnny, Landes believes he really could find a way to reach Manziel and help get his life back on track.
“I’d do anything for Johnny,” Landes said. “If he gave me a call and wanted me to fly up and take care of him, I’d be on a plane in a heartbeat. I’d do anything to help him out right now.”