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Johnny Manziel Inspires Through Friendship

By Gabriel Katz

Former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, whose personality and “Johnny Football” handle have become sports and pop culture phenomenon over the past two years, has made some of his biggest impact as a fashion trendsetter, of sorts. He was picked up by the Cleveland Browns during this year’s NFL draft and may immediately change the future of this professional franchise, but for Charlie Dina and his family this means immensely less than what Manziel has already accomplished.

First, it was a yellow bracelet. Given to Manziel by a cousin who happened to run into the Dina family at a concession stand during an Aggies game, the bracelet bore the writing “Charlie’s Angels Philippians 4:13.” Beyond the biblical scripture referencing strength through faith, it was a nod to the team of Dina’s supporters, who had been by the family’s side since he was diagnosed suddenly with stage 4 neuroblastoma in 2012 at just five years old. Dina’s story, which has led to five rounds of chemotherapy, multiple operations, radiation therapy and a stem cell transplant touched Manziel instantly.

The night after receiving the bracelet, Manziel sent a photo of him wearing the supportive band to the Dina family, and thus a relationship began. Manziel sent autographed material to Dina throughout the 2012 season, and eventually mentioned his appreciation for the boy during his Heisman Trophy acceptance speech.

Manziel had brought enormous attention to Dina, and the youngster instantly became the quarterback’s biggest fan. But things didn’t stop there. The two, possessing equal admiration for each other spent the day together in February 2013, and maintained consistent contact. In May of 2013 Dina was declared cancer free, and that September Manziel held him in his arms after a Texas A&M game, the pair reunited again.

The bracelet is what started this bond, and in February of this year all eyes were on the stylish Manziel once again, this time at a charity fashion show in Houston benefiting Charlie’s Angels. Manziel was just months away from the draft and preparing for the biggest step in his new career, but for the man whose focus and discipline have been as criticized as his football skills, there wasn’t a question as to Manziel’s motivation.

“I was here for Charlie,” Manziel said at the event to reporter Shelby Hodge. “I’ve been training for the last month in San Diego and I flew in just for Charlie.”

As Johnny Football continues his career, chances are the yellow bracelet, and at the very least Charlie Dina will remain close to his heart.

Gabe Katz
A journalism enthusiast – sports media in particular – Gabe has interviewed Super Bowl champions Raheem Brock and Chris Canty, and rising star Bengals linebacker Vincent Rey. He’s covered organizations and events affiliated with the NY Rangers, NY Knicks, and NBA Cares. He has also written articles featuring NY Yankees’ Robinson Cano and CC Sabathia, Tina Charles (WNBA), Deron William’s Point of Hope Foundation (NBA), and the foundations of Torrey Smith and Ryan Kerrigan (NFL). After graduating from Temple University where he received a degree in communications, he had two subsequent positions in news, first as an online editor and contributor for a Philadelphia sports web site start-up and later as a multimedia content provider at a newspaper in the Philadelphia suburbs. He now lives in New York as a freelance journalist and remains an avid sports fan.