Spring League ends with games, practices, selfies, handshakes — and hope

It was almost like the end of a summer camp Thursday night with all the selfies, bear hugs and handshakes.

Except it was the conclusion of the two-week Spring League at Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex. More than 150 football players were trying to catch the eye of a pro scout, whether from the NFL or CFL.

Johnny Manziel, the former Texas A&M star, 2012 Heisman Trophy winner and first-round NFL pick, lingered as long as anyone after his South team lost to the West 34-17. He ran into the locker room to ditch his pads then came back onto the field to talk to reporters. He signed autographs. He dashed back into the locker room and then trotted back out to pose for photos with teammates. He shook hands and told his new friends to “stay in touch.”

“We had fun,” Manziel said. “It was fun messing around with the guys, giving people crap about certain things. It was exactly what I wanted, no matter the outcome. What happened is I got to do exactly what I wanted to do that I’ve been missing for the past 2½ years.”

The league was divided into four teams. Two games were played last Saturday. There were two more games Thursday night.

Manziel was the league’s star attraction as he tried to shake off the competitive rust and remold his bad-boy reputation. He hadn’t played a down of organized football since December 2015. The Cleveland Browns released him in March 2016. He stayed out of football until the Spring League started 15 days ago.

Manziel, 25, looked far more at ease Thursday than he did in his previous outing, when he was sacked four times. He was 10 of 16 for 188 yards with an interception. He rushed six times for 27 yards and two touchdowns.

He looked most comfortable scrambling, using his speed on some quick bootlegs. He enjoyed the most chemistry with former Baylor star Antwan Goodley, an undrafted free agent in 2015 who has spent time on the practice squads of Seattle and Green Bay.

Goodley caught a 50-yard pass from Manziel on Thursday. He also combined with Manziel for a touchdown last Saturday.

“You never know what he’s going to do back there,” Goodley said of Manziel. “I’ve got to do my job and stay in his eyes. You’ve got to be the quarterback’s best friend and gain his trust.”

There were other players who stood out on Manziel’s team. Former Auburn tailback and former Houston Texan Ben Tate, a second-round pick in 2010, showed his speed on a 43-yard gain. Unfortunately for Tate, he pulled a leg muscle at the end of his run and couldn’t make it to the end zone.

Josh Gable, a former pro soccer player in Europe, kicked a 56-yard field goal with about 10 yards to spare. He was the only one in the league who had never played college football.

Bryan Scott, who quarterbacked the West, was named the most outstanding player of Thursday’s game. He completed 9 of 10 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for two scores. Back when he played at Occidental College he was known as the “Aaron Rodgers of Division III.” So maybe a team noticed him this month in Austin.

Former LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who was a sixth-round pick by Tennessee in 2014, started for the West. He called his own plays and completed 6 of 11 passes for 47 yards. He also rushed for two touchdowns.

Manziel sought out Mettenberger before he left the stadium. Mettenberger said maybe the two of them would face off again in the CFL — Calgary has the CFL rights to Mettenberger; Hamilton has the option for Manziel.

“You’re really a star player,” Mettenberger told Manziel. “Stay that way.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Sports

Robinson, Alberto lead the way as the Express beat Omaha

Drew Robinson doubled twice and singled as the Round Rock Express beat the Omaha Storm Chasers 5-2 on Sunday. Starting pitcher Richelson Pena picked up the win after a quality start on the mound. Pena tossed seven innings, giving up five hits and allowing just one run. He had seven strikeouts and walked none. James Jones came into relief in the eighth...
Our 10th annual Top 25 countdown: No. 7 Miami must solve Clemson before realizing ACC, CFP hopes
Our 10th annual Top 25 countdown: No. 7 Miami must solve Clemson before realizing ACC, CFP hopes

Sure, it’s July. But it’s never too early to talk college football. Here’s your daily fix — our annual countdown of the preseason Top 25, as selected by the American-Statesman sports staff. Last year’s eventual CFP semifinalists were ranked Nos. 1, 5, 8 and 14 on our 2017 list. Our Top 25 &mdash...
Nike says its $250 running shoes will make you run much faster. What if that’s actually true?

If a running shoe made you 25 percent faster, would it be fair to wear it in a race? What about 10 percent? Or 2 percent? The Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% — a bouncy, expensive shoe released to the public one year ago — raises these questions like no shoe in recent distance running history. Nike says the shoes are about 4 percent better than some...
Indians beat Rangers in 11th after debuting new relievers
Indians beat Rangers in 11th after debuting new relievers

Both of Cleveland’s new relievers got into the game before the Indians’ closer had a rare blown save Friday night against the Texas Rangers. Manager Terry Francona had to go deep into his bullpen — using seven relievers after All-Star starter Trevor Bauer’s early exit — before the big hitters in the heart of the lineup...
Keuchel takes no-hitter into seventh as Astros top Angels
Keuchel takes no-hitter into seventh as Astros top Angels

Dallas Keuchel didn’t allow a debatable scoring decision to ruin his dominant night. Keuchel took a no-hitter into the seventh and finished with 7 2/3 innings of two-hit ball in the Houston Astros’ 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Friday night. Justin Upton broke up Keuchel’s bid with two outs in the seventh when his line...
More Stories