Johnny Manziels’ voluntary stint in rehab shows maturity

What would you do if you suddenly were given millions of dollars? This is the fundamental question asked of rookie professional athletes every year. The NFL has some of the strictest requirements when it comes to who is eligible for the draft, mandating that players be at least three years out of high school before entering (after their redshirt sophomore or true junior seasons), but that still means that many NFL rookies are the same age if not younger than many of the students on Carnegie Mellon’s campus. The MLB and NHL allow players fresh out of high school and the NBA requires just one year of college before turning pro, leading to odd situations such as New Orleans Pelicans MVP candidate Anthony Davis being in his third year, dominating the league and on pace to break the record for most efficient season ever based on the Player Efficiency Ranking (PER), being only 21.

I am confident that if I gave many of the undergraduate students here at Carnegie Mellon millions of dollars to go professional in a field they have worked hard to be one of the best at (their major), most of them would instantly go wild and party for a while. They found their reward for years of hard work and finally get to reap the benefits, so why not enjoy it?

This behavior creates the dichotomy faced by many of the young players in professional sports. Society looks to at best, 21- and 22-year-old and, at worst, 17- and 18-year-old role models and shoves them into the public spotlight. Johnny Manziel is the latest example of a star talent who society punished for overly enjoying the fame his talent provided.

Johnny “Football” has always had trouble staying within the law. Back in high school, his parents offered him a brand-new car if he could avoid drugs and alcohol during his junior and senior years as being the starting quarterback. Even with the large added incentive, Manziel fell into the same trap that high schoolers from well-to-do families do, and quickly succumbed to the temptations and peer pressure of rebellion through alcohol.

His parents took away the car, but it barely seemed to matter.

The same story was present throughout his college career at Texas A&M University, where Manziel’s star kept rising and — much to the chagrin of his parents — his notoriety of a party animal kept rising as well.
Leading up to the draft after his redshirt sophomore year, Manziel faced many questions about his immature habits, but did all the right things to convince teams of his newfound maturity. He managed to convince the Cleveland Browns, at least, who took him with the 22nd overall pick in the first round.

Right after the draft, however, the old Johnny ‘Football” emerged as pictures of him showing up to Vegas nightclubs and incriminating photos implying cocaine usage turned up.

Manziel started the season on the bench and was demolished in his two starts ending the season on injured reserve and the poor note of missing his injury treatment due to oversleeping from his party the night before. Last week, at the age of 22, Manziel checked in to rehab for, at a minimum, alcohol use. For most 22 year olds, the second semester of senior year is the last chance of partying and drinking before accepting responsibility, but here is Manziel in rehab with gallons of ink spilled writing about what a terrible role model he is and his lack of maturity.
I appreciate that professional athletes are blessed with an opportunity that few will ever come close to, and certainly have little room to complain, but at a certain point we need to step back and look at them as real humans. There are minimal expectations of a 22-year-old to be sober on a Friday and Saturday night, much less lead a team of their seniors into battle against the top competition in the world on a weekly basis. The media has been hounding Manziel for years, with the spotlight only intensifying after his Heisman Trophy win after his redshirt freshman year. But Manziel is still fundamentally a college kid, and he deserves a break.

We act as if he is some horribly irresponsible man, even though his largest crime is partying too hard.

Sure he should have probably taken his job more seriously, but most Americans, particularly those most critical of Manziel, do not give 100 percent at their jobs every day. Men reach their physical peak well before their mental one, but society expects its young professional athletes to be at both before they are really at either.

I applaud Manziel for recognizing his flaws and their increased magnitude in the current media spotlight, and taking action for trying to become the person society expects him to be regardless of the stigma associated with rehab. His decision shows true maturity.