Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel handles himself like a No. 1 pick

jjones@charlotteobserver.comFebruary 21, 2014 

NFL Combine Football

Johnny Manziel measured a tad under 6 feet tall at the NFL combine on Friday in Indianapolis, but he said: ‘I play like I’m 10 feet tall.’

MICHAEL CONROY — AP

— Johnny Manziel stood at the NFL combine podium, poised.

He showed confidence with every response. He located each media member who asked him a question despite there being more than a hundred gathered in a horseshoe around him.

Manziel knew questions were coming about his maturity and if he could be trusted with the keys to an NFL franchise, and he was ready.

Two years in the spotlight tends to polish people.

Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner and Texas A&M quarterback, handled himself on Friday like a potential No 1. pick.

“I believe whenever I decided to make this decision to turn professional, it was a time to put my college years in the past,” Manziel said. “This is a job. There are guys’ families, coaches’ families and jobs and all kinds of things on the line. For me, it won’t be a hard thing to kick. I’m extremely focused on whatever organization I’m at.”

The Houston Texans could take Manziel with the No. 1 pick, and even if they don’t, it’s unlikely Manziel drops out of the top 10. Central Florida’s Blake Bortles and Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater join Manziel in the consensus top three quarterbacks in the draft.

In college, Manziel had a tendency to do what college kids do. He drank and he partied. He also did what most college kids don’t get the opportunity to do, like getting paid for his signature by an autograph broker – a move that earned him a half-game suspension.

But Manziel said he’s toned down his act since finishing his career with the Aggies. He has been training in San Diego with quarterback guru George Whitfield and declined to attend Super Bowl festivities.

Manziel made a name for himself as the most electrifying player in college football for two seasons, and clips of his escapes from the pocket can be found with a few keystrokes on YouTube. But he hopes to prove wrong the critics who say he’s just an improviser and not a pocket passer.

“There’s times where plays aren’t going to go as scripted as people draw them up on the whiteboard,” Manziel said. “Whenever that happens you go through your reads and there are going to be times where you have to take off and get outside of the pocket and extend plays. But at the same time I want to be a guy that can drop back and go through my reads and my progressions and take what the defense gives.”

But Manziel isn’t going to prove that at the combine. He decided to not do throwing drills this week. Instead, he said he would make any throw at any private workout for teams, and he will throw to his Texas A&M receivers at the school’s pro day.

Manziel measured in at 5-foot-11 and ¾ inches, a height that at the NFL level will be difficult to primarily be a pocket passer.

“I play with a lot of heart, a lot of passion,” Manziel said. “I feel like I play like I’m 10 feet tall. The measurement to me is just a number.”

Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9

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