When Johnny Manziel displayed his exemplary passing skills for 45 minutes on Thursday, March 27, 2014, ESPN covered the live event, their cameras were transfixed only on Manziel, whose skills impressed most of the media commentators substantially, including Mel Kiper, Jr. But there were a few others in the private audience who were even bigger stars than the young man of the hour, but they were there simply as Aggie fans showing support for their school's bright young NFL talent prospect, not for any other reason. More about them later. First, to address the greatest star in the Aggie galaxy, the one and only Johnny Football.
Today Manziel was grand under pressure, and he was near perfect in 58 of 60 passes, with only two drops, going as long as 25 consecutive minutes without a receiver drop. Johnny Football delivered on time and above target. His final throw was a perfect satellite launch to Mike Evans that reminded you of a Roger Staubach pass on a Saturday afternoon with the Cowboys, picture perfect.
Manziel pushed himself even one notch up the ladder as he wore full helmet, and shoulder pads for his pro throw, something that has not been traditional for those auditioning for the pro leagues. Manziel shared, “No NFL quarterback comes out onto the field in shorts and a t-shirt on Sunday,” so he chose the pads and was even more impressive in his creative, anticipatory thinking, more evidence of excellent quarterback preparation.
That additional burden, in the stifling Texas humidity, even in a nice facility such as Manziel was in, was just one more way that Manziel said, “was pushing his life into being a total professional.” In the post-throw interview broadcast live on ESPN, Manziel said, “I’ve never been more committed in my life.”
With the maturity and ease with which the Aggie athlete would welcome a guest to his home, Manziel addressed the crowd assembled to see him, before the demonstration began, welcoming them "on behalf of me and the six guys with me," thanking them for their attendance today, and for traveling to College Station to see him, noting, "It’s not always that easy to get here.”
Manziel was equally at home in front of the camera as he was the distinguished crowd assembled to watch him, ignoring the pressure that five of the eight NFL coaches, also watching, had Top 10 picks in the upcoming NFL draft at stake for his future. His throws showed versatility, accuracy, and a bit of that Manziel magic, that can only be simulated without 11 people chasing him across, down, and up the field at one time. The results were strong, as you'd expect, and he remained in Mel Kiper Jr.’s top eight draft picks after the day’s events.
Manziel’s demeanor to the three ESPN commentators, post-throw, was calm, upbeat, yet respectful and confident. He answered all their questions and took their comments with such frank and open responses, that it actually appeared to throw them for a loop. “I came out here in shoulder pads and helmet because I have nothing to hide,” Manziel said.
Today’s pro throw was closed to the public to keep the atmosphere focused on professional football. Those watching Johnny throw included eight NFL coaches, three general managers, and two others whose high profile remained obscured from the cameras, as they were there to watch more state and national history in the making.
Undoubtedly no other 2014 NFL draft prospect can say that they had a beloved former U.S. President and First Lady, as well as the governor of their state in the same elite audience as NFL head coaches and general managers for their professional league audition.
President George H. W. Bush and his wife, Barbara Bush, have been an integral part of the best of Texas A&M history ever since opening their Presidential Library here in 1998. Today was another way in which President Bush and Mrs. Bush show their support for two of their own Aggie family members. It just happens that the family members were Texas A&M’s best NFL draft prospects, quarterback Johnny Manziel and his favorite receiver Mike Evans.
Texas Governor and former Texas Aggie yell leader, Rick Perry, determined that today’s draft was official state business and attended the event in person, an extremely high compliment paid to the young future NFL quarterback. The beauty of Governor Perry’s being here is that both of Texas’ NFL teams must realize that Johnny Manziel is as easily identified as "Texas’s own" Johnny Football, as well as Texas A&M’s own #2, Johnny Manziel. Aggie fans hope that the silent underscoring of state support was not lost on the pro scouts and general managers in attendance. The subtle message: “You will sell out your season tickets with Manziel on your team, anywhere he goes, so does Texas really want to miss out on that opportunity?” Football is big business in the Texas economy, professional, collegiate, and high school alike.
As for Johnny Manziel, he has played for sold-out crowds at Kyle Field; now the Aggies are expanding Kyle Field, also known as “the house that Johnny built” as a result of his electric and exciting on-field performance. After watching Johnny throw on ESPN, LeBron James tweeted to all his followers:
Just finished watching my bro @JManziel2 pro day!! Don't take him if u want 2. He's a flat out STAR! Accuracy on point! #StriveForGreatness
In just the first hour after posting that, the NBA star’s tweet has been retweeted 5,426 times and favorited 4,449, and counting. Given the business pairing between Manziel and James’ management representation, “just a kid from Akron, Ohio” is showing his support for “just a kid from Tivy High School in Kerrville, Texas, and a player who’s won the hearts of Texas Aggie fans around the world.” But it's not every day that "King James" does a shout-out to any other NFL prospect either. Likely everyone in the business offices of the interested NFL teams is envisioning their season ticket sales skyrocketing right about now. Once again, Texas pro teams, are you paying close attention?
Another talented man who helped shape Johnny into the talented quarterback that he is today was not present in person, but he most certainly was welcome and uppermost in Johnny’s mind and heart: former Texas A&M Head Football Coach Mike Sherman. In response to questions that ESPN commentators asked Manziel, one was regarding how Johnny had become the quarterback today that he had, first he credited both George Whitfield for taking him from playing “like he was running around like a chicken with my head cut off” as a freshman to “playing with more confidence in his second season.”
Next, Manziel credited his fellow teammates who will be in the draft as well, plus another who will return to Texas A&M for next season but will enter the 2015 draft, “I’ve already played behind a (future) NFL line at Texas A&M,” which was a very classy, and typical, remark of Manziel to share the spotlight as much as he could with his teammates, who inarguably helped make him the spotlight player he is today.
Third, and finally, another poignant and special crediting that Manziel did was to “not forget who 'brung' him to the dance,” as Aggies are used to saying, as he remembered Coach Mike Sherman with ultimate respect.
Coach Sherman did a great job of recruiting guys here who are extremely big and extremely talented and I played behind all of them my entire time being here. What a lot of people don’t remember I was here in the pro-style system of Coach Sherman for a year and a half. So when we got back into that stuff, I’d go ‘oh yeah, there’s Fox 2, Fox 2 double dig that we did with Coach Sherman,’ so it all came back. I’ll never forget all the things that we did and all the things that he taught me, he and (former Packers coach and quarterback coach under Sherman) Coach (Tom) Rossley taught me, so it’s all fresh, and I have it all right up here (in his head) somewhere.
In looking to make a case for his own NFL future, it was a very classy move to recognize NFL and former Aggie Head Football Coach Mike Sherman. That’s not one bit of disrespect to Aggie Head Coach Kevin Sumlin, under whose tutelage (and that of Kliff Kingsbury and Jake Spavital), Manziel flourished on the field. Had there been more time, likely Manziel would have also mentioned Julius Scott, Manziel’s offensive coordinator at Tivy High School, but this was all about Johnny as a future NFL player. Don't be surprised if you learn of Johnny Manziel endowed gifts going to Tivy High School as soon as his pro future career is set into motion.
Johnny's final audition is over; the pro throw is a part of history now, Texas Aggie history, State of Texas history (courtesy of Gov. Rick Perry), and U.S. history (courtesy of President (41) and Mrs. Bush). Texas A&M former students around the country can’t wait for the 2014 NFL draft, which begins May 8, 2014. On March 27, 2014 Johnny Manziel made Aggie history, one more time, for how he handled his audition for the NFL. Best wishes to #2, from all of your former student family. Gig ‘em, Johnny Football. You did it your way.