March 31, 2017

Rewind: Tillman says Manziell would be ‘dynamic’ in CFL

Pawel Dwulit/

HAMILTON — Eric Tillman has been imagining Johnny Manziel playing in the CFL for some time.

The Ticats’ GM first opened up about Manziel’s talents back in March of 2017, when he revealed that the former Texas A&M star was in fact on the team’s negotiation list.

A year later, Manziel has announced that he has signed a two-year deal with the team. So who are the Ticats getting?

Tillman described Manziel as a player of ‘extraordinary gifts’.

“A terrific athlete, a guy that can dunk a basketball,” started Tillman. “Flat-footed, has huge hands. The guy’s just Houdini with the football — just an innate ability to escape.”

All nine CFL teams have a negotiation list consisting of 45 international and non-drafted national players. A player on any of the team’s neg lists is only permitted to negotiate a CFL contract with that team, but it does not prevent the player from signing with a team in another league.

Names can be added, removed or traded off of a team’s list at any given time while players who qualify as CFL veterans (appeared on a game roster, reserve list or injury list for seven games) are ineligible to be placed on a neg list.

Until now, all nine teams have kept their lists confidential — although the link between the Ticats and Manziel was certainly no secret, making him a fitting first choice for the series.

At the time, Tillman expressed his hope of Manziel getting another shot in the NFL. But if not?

“If that doesn’t happen, we think he’s a guy that’s just electric, that could be one of the most exciting players in the Canadian Football League since Doug Flutie,” said Tillman. “He makes throws. Up here he could utilize every inch in the width of our field.

“He’s just going to be a dynamic player in Canada if he comes.”

“The question is do we have a need? Would it be here? Would it be elsewhere? That’s yet to be determined. We just know that Johnny has value.”

Ticats’ GM Eric Tillman on Manziel

One of the top high school players in America at the time, Manziel was originally recruited by Oregon before decommitting to join Tom Rossley, then the new offensive coordinator at Texas A&M.

In 2012 he became the first ever freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, starting off two stellar seasons with the Aggies that would eventually lead to him becoming the 22nd overall pick by the Cleveland Browns in 2014.

Surrounded by off-field troubles, Manziel’s time with the Browns lasted only a couple of seasons. But after some time away, the 24-year-old is attempting a comeback.

“The off-the-field stuff has certainly been well-documented,” said Tillman. “We’ll see how that goes.

“The question is do we have a need? Would it be here? Would it be elsewhere? That’s yet to be determined. We just know that Johnny has value.”

Jimmy Jeong/

Could Kent Austin and Johnny Manziel one day become a coach-QB duo? (Jimmy Jeong/

“We have no idea what the time frame is,” Tillman said at the time. “But at the end of the day you want to accumulate the rights to as many good football players as you can on your neg list and we think Johnny’s exceptional.”