If there’s one thing nobody can deny, it’s that Johnathan “Johnny” Manziel has almost always had an incredible support group by his side despite the controversies he has faced over the years. Whether it be his substance-driven benders or his hunger to make money as quickly as he can spend it, someone has been by him in various different capacities at nearly every step of the way. And at first, it was none other than his closest friend/partner in crime turned unofficial agent/manager Nathan “Nate” Fitch, per Netflix’s ‘Untold: Johnny Football’ — so now, let’s just find out more about their connection, shall we?
Johnny and Nate’s Journey
It was back in the mid-2000s when Johnny came across Nate for the first time while attending the same middle school in their hometown of Kerrville, Texas, only to quickly develop a deep platonic affinity. “We both loved video games,” the latter casually asserted in the aforementioned original. “We both loved football, and we both loved girls, so we had all the most important things in common.” He continued, “The Johnny I knew [growing up] wanted to be the best football player you could possibly be and after that, go drink some beers out on a ranch, drive a 20-year-old truck over to do it.”
This determination is why Nate had never hesitated to stick by his fellow country friend through thick and thin, just to eventually affectionately become known across the industry as Johnny’s right-hand man, “Uncle Nate.” In fact, once the quarterback got into Texas A&M University, he was right there helping him have some fun before essentially evolving into his unofficial agent or manager upon seeing a business opportunity. After all, with the athlete’s extraordinary rise in the public world, he needed some actual professional to guide him along the way, but there was only just his best friend and so everything went through him.
Nate’s phone hence never stopped ringing, especially since freshman athletes weren’t allowed to speak to the media under coach guidelines, and Johnny was obviously in demand. Then came an encounter that suddenly led the duo to realize they could make money signing autographs even if the NCAA didn’t allow it; they had a rule student players couldn’t earn off their brand. “Constructing the business was really logic,” Nate said prior to revealing they traveled to one hotel or another once a month, where Johnny signed memorabilia, and then they walked away with thousands.
The proud friend then added, “You have to understand, we weren’t just signing autographs… [We were] all over the place. Throw a dart on a map,” meaning they took the hard cash, splurged, and enjoyed every possible luxury while bumping shoulders with the biggest celebrities, as clearly seen below. “I’m going in my head ’cause I’m 20 years old, ‘I’m so badass’… [Johnny] is in my ear the whole time telling me we’re the baddest thing that ever existed and ‘Let’s Roll! This is what life is like forever.'” But then the NCAA caught on, only for Nate to come up with arguably a near-flawless defense.
“We talked, and I devised a plan that was brilliant,” Nate unabashedly said in the movie. “I started with, ‘How does [Johnny] get caught?’ He gets caught because somebody takes a picture during a paid autograph session. You can sign autographs all you want. The part you have to conceal is money [so make it white by putting it into your bank account]… The next step is how you are going to explain why you are wearing Rolexes, driving new cars, and flying in private jets… The biggest spin that still exists today, I invented a narrative that his family was vastly wealthy [from generational oil money].”
Nate actually willingly took on the fall guy role too, which is why Johnny split everything with him 80-20, and they walked away scott-free even though they technically didn’t do anything criminal. In the end, the athlete was suspended for merely half a game for possible conscious failure to prevent the commercialization of his name, whereas the former never really had anything to lose, well, except the friendship. We specify this because once Johnny decided to turn pro in 2013, he was advised to cut off his oldest companion as he could be a “risk” owing to everything he knew despite his previous loyalty.
Are Johnny and Nate Still Friends?
“I think the counsel [Johnny] was receiving at the time was probably sound advice, which is, ‘Hey, you’re no longer doing this half-a** 20-year-old management’.” Nate very candidly elucidated in the production. “I just knew I was super loyal and that I contributed everything; mind, body, soul, spirit, to help him. An image needed to change from being best friend to it needed to be a big firm.” On the other hand, the quarterback said, “We’d originally told him there wasn’t going to be a guy with me in the day-to-day… I kinda think he felt his role in the whole thing was diminished and kinda pulled away.”
Unfortunately, per their own accounts, Johnny and Nate gradually drifted so far apart they haven’t spoken since, yet they do continue to wish one another the best without any hint of bad blood. In fact, in 2016, while the former was on an admitted extreme “self-sabotage” “bender,” his once friend came forward to urge him to seek professional medical help. Then, the same year he told Forbes, “People grow apart and people change. I wish nothing bad for [Johnny]. I wish him all the best. I know he feels the same for me.” He basically made it clear that no matter what, he’ll always be there for Johnny, even if they’re not on speaking terms.
Read More: Where Are Johnny Manziel’s Parents Now?