Lifelong Tiger Woods fans that he is, Johnny Manziel nonetheless recalls a time when he was flat-out denied an autograph by one of his biggest childhood idols.

Yeah, that happened,” Manziel told Golf Digest magazine in its latest issue. “My dad played in a member-guest at Isleworth every year with a friend, and we’d take our family vacation to Orlando. One day, I ended playing with a bunch of kids at the house of Thurman Thomas of all people. I think he was friends with some of our family friends. Somehow we heard that Tiger was out playing on a nearby course, so another guy and I ran out there looking for him.”

The Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback and former Heisman Trophy winner admits he didn’t walk from that experience with what he wanted most , but his love for golf or Woods never wavered.

Manziel remembers taking to the links as early as when he was four-years old, hitting plastic golf balls over fences attached to a plastic rope. Later, Manziel’s family moved to a home on the golf course of Hollytree Country Club and his love quickly turned into an obsession.

“That’s when I started playing golf the most,” he said. “My mom and dad were always working, and I and my sister would be at the house all day. The only thing we could really do was go out in our golf cart.”

As a kid, Manziel remembers competing in tournaments his father entered him into that solidified his love of the sport. “I remember him taking me to my first tournament, a 7-and-under event at Pine springs Gold Course,” he said. “This was before we could even tee up from the red tee box; we teed off from the middle of the fairway. I shot like 48 of 49. It was a nine-hole tournament, and from that I was hooked.”

Still, in time, Manziel became interested in other sports, namely football. “As I got older, 13 or 14, there were more and more tournaments throughout the state that I was able to play,” he said. “Better players. Better courses. And I had no time to practice. Now I’m going to a baseball tournament that’s Thursday-Friday-Saturday. And Sunday, we’re driving to Waco for a golf tournament on Monday-Tuesday. I haven’t been practicing, and I’m wondering why I’m shooting 94.”

But through it all, golf and Woods have maintained a place in the heart of Johnny Football.

“Golf was a big art of our family,” he said. “Golf Channel was on the TV a lot, we watched the tournaments on TV during the weekend, and more than anything these were the Tiger years. I want it to be a game I can play forever.”

[Photo Credit: Erik Daniel Drost]