Big risk, big reward. Never boring. And always defying doubters.
Johnny Manziel was Johnny Manziel again at Pro-Day on Thursday.
In front of a media circus that included former President George H.W. Bush, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, described by Breitbart Sports as “Allen Iverson on grass,” wore helmets and pads for his pro-day and wowed scouts and talent evaluators, some of whom had never even seen him play live during his two dizzying and dazzling years at Texas A&M that saw him become the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy and become the the college athlete to define the social media era.
Just asked Manziel why the pads and helmet at pro day: “Isn’t the game played with them on?”
— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) March 27, 2014
He was 61 for 64 with just one bad throw (one pass was dropped and another caught out of bounds) and showed he could make an array of throws from the pocket. The league already knows about his all-world scrambling ability. The quarterback who seems like a combination of Fran Tarkenton and Brett Favre greeted coaches and general managers before his workout and welcomed them to College Station, acknowledging that it isn’t always easy to travel there. Manziel seemed to acknowledge that NFL teams may be concerned about how he’ll handle the white-hot spotlight that will always be on him and went out of his way to show that he can be the face of a franchise — on and off the field — that a star quarterback has to be.
“I can make any throw on the field and hopefully compete with anybody,” Manziel told NFL Network.
Johnathan Football just put on an absolute clinic at his Pro Day. Apparently all of those “experts” are wrong about him…again. #1stPick
— Kliff Kingsbury (@TTUKingsbury) March 27, 2014
He said he understands what it takes to be professional, and the hours that Tom Brady and Peyton Manning put in studying film. The knock on Manziel has been questions about whether, as Breitbart Sports noted, he would spend more time in the champagne room than the film room.
“I’ve never been more committed my entire life,” he said.
Manziel spoke about how he is familiar with the pro-style offense having spent a year under Mike Sherman, emphasized how much he evolved from his freshman campaign in which he said he ran around “like a chicken with its head cut off” to his sophomore campaign in which he evolved as a lethal pocket passer. Contrary to his scrambling stereotype, Manziel shined in the pocket as as sophomore, and that was evident in the third week of the season when he shredded Alabama’s secondary, which is Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban’s speciality, from the pocket. Saban, after Alabama field general A.J. McCarron showed how great of a professional he will be by putting the offense on his shoulders and leading Alabama to a comeback win in one of college football’s most hostile environments, said Manziel took ten years off of his life — even in Alabama’s win.
Manziel said he could progress similarly in the NFL.
He was aware that he had to “play smart” at the next level and mentioned that “Russell Wilson stays healthy” because he does not take on NFL linebackers and gets out of bounds and goes down before he gets smacked.
“Pick your battles,” he said.
Veteran NFL scout Chris Landry had told Breitbart Sports that, “Manziel is a very accurate passer to all levels of the field and on the move. He is short and running at the next level will have to be minimized due to his size but not so much as to limit his improvisational skills. He is not for everyone but he has NFL starting capabilities.”
“It will come down to how comfortable each team is with his willingness to spend all the extra time in the film room and play a more fundamental and less risky style while still allowing for those play-extending qualities that he possesses,” Landry told Breitbart Sports earlier in the year.
But NFL talent evaluators and analysts who seemed to come to College Station looking for things to pick apart begrudgingly did not have much to criticize and spoke as if their eyes were seeing things that countered all of their dismissals leading up to his pro-day.
Bill Polian, the former Colts general manager and ESPN analyst, attended the pro-day and said those who knocked Manziel’s arm strength were simply “watching the wrong” tape.
Manziel also will be huge draw and will put plenty of spectators in seats in an age when more fans are staying home. But after his Pro-day performance, talent evaluators were beginning to figure out that Manziel’s ability to sell tickets will be just a bonus to his potential on the field.