COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Johnny Manziel wanted to show the NFL what he’s about.
He did nothing to hurt his case Thursday, with the high-profile, often-polarizing Texas A&M quarterback putting on an impressive, entertaining – and in the end, very, very memorable – performance at his personal Pro Day at the McFerrin Athletic Complex on the Texas A&M campus.
Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner and a player many project to be selected in the Top 5 of the 2014 NFL Draft, completed 61 of 64 passes to six different receivers in a workout that lasted about 20 minutes in the indoor facility.
Manziel also broke from the Pro Day, pre-draft norm, conducting the workout in a helmet and shoulder pads. Pro Day workouts are typically conducted in shorts and T-Shirts.
Media around Manziel pic.twitter.com/tnUt4CZaQX— J.P. Shadrick (@jpshadrick) March 27, 2014
“You play the game in football pads,” Manziel told about 100 gathered media following the workout. “You play the game in shoulder pads on Sunday. Why not come out here and do it? I never understood why that was the trend.”
Manziel called the decision “a no-brainer.”
“I wanted treat it as a game day,” he said. “I know every one of the guys out here catching balls from me did.”
The performance came in front of officials from 30 of 32 teams, with eight NFL head coaches – Gus Bradley of the Jaguars, Mike Tomlin (Steelers), Lovie Smith (Buccaneers), Mike Zimmer (Vikings), Bill O’Brien (Texans) and Chip Kelly (Eagles) among them – and eight general managers attending.
Former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, also attended the workout.
Bradley attended along with Jaguars General Manager Dave Caldwell, offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch and Senior Vice President Football Technology and Analytics Tony Khan. That group also attended the Pro Days of Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles and Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater last week.
“He did a great job,” Bradley said. “It was well set up for all the throws. It was very efficient. He’s ultracompetitive and that shows up on tape. Everything he does he performs at a high level. I think we came to expect that here. We knew this was going to be a high-level (performance) to show his competitiveness and take to the challenge. He did just that.”
The Jaguars were scheduled to meet with Manziel following the workout.
“I’m really excited to get a chance to sit down and meet with him,” Bradley said. “That’s a big part of it as well.”
One of Manziel’s incompletions Thursday was a dropped pass, while another would have been a difficult catch. The other was caught out of bounds by wide receiver Mike Evans, a projected first-round selection.
“We were going for perfection, but overall it was pretty good,” Manziel said. “I was trying to go 65 for 65.”
Manziel’s workout differed from the norm in other ways beyond the helmet and shoulder pads. He threw with hip-hop music playing in the background, and before the workout, he gathered the officials, coaches and scouts at midfield and thanked them for attending.
“College Station is a little bit of a tricky spot to get to,” Manziel said. “I just wanted to speak on my behalf as well as the six guys behind me and thank them for coming back and (tell them) anything they wanted to see after, I’d be more than happy to do that for them.”
Said Smith of the Buccaneers, “I think most guys appreciate coaches coming, but that’s the first one (Pro Day) I’ve seen start out that way.”
Manziel said that while there is widespread speculation and disagreement about his draft status Thursday was about controlling what he could. Some observers believe he could go as high as No. 1 overall to the Houston Texans in the May 8-10 2014 NFL Draft, while there are other respected mock drafters who believe he could slip from the first round.
“It’s really out of my control,” Manziel said. “All I could do was come out and try to put on the best show possible and go into these meetings and try to show these guys a side of me that not a lot of people can see.”
Counting Manziel with three incompletions so far. 60-63 pic.twitter.com/CzHFnK3EBa— John Oehser (@JohnOehser) March 27, 2014
Manziel said Thursday’s workout was designed to emphasize footwork and his ability to work under center and using a seven-step drop that often is needed in the NFL. Manziel worked mostly in the shotgun in a spread formation in college.
“We wanted to show we didn’t have anything to hide, and that we could go through all the footwork these guys wanted to see,” Manziel said, who also on Thursday was chased at times by his quarterback coach/guru, George Whitfield, with a broom to simulate pressure.
NFL Media draft analyst Gil Brandt, the Vice President of Player Personnel for the Dallas Cowboys for 29 seasons, said Thursday that Manziel is his No. 1-ranked player in this year’s draft, and when pressed said he would take Manziel No. 1 overall.
O’Brien, the Texans’ first-year coach, was a bit less specific, saying of Manziel’s day Thursday, “It’s one step in the process.”
“And it’s a long process,” O’Brien said.
Everybody I spoke with said Manziel blew them away.— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) March 27, 2014
As for Manziel, he said while the coming weeks of pre-draft speculation and waiting will be difficult because—again – much of the process is out of control, he said his objective is to continue to have fun in the moment.
“I just want to go through this process with a smile on my face,” he said. “You only get to do it once. It’s out of my control. I’m enjoying everything and I know at the end of the day things are going to work out the way they’re supposed to, just the way it worked out I was supposed to be here.”
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