Manziel stealing draft show
Johnny Manziel is a media sensation now, but will he actually get picked in the first round?
NEW YORK - Johnny Manziel has hijacked Jadeveon Clowney's draft.
Manziel didn't mean to. He just showed up, and it happened.
It always happens like this for Johnny Football.
He hijacked the Heisman in 2012 as a redshirt freshman, then, in 2013, he hijacked social media and the attention of the NCAA infractions hounds . . . and probably should have won the Heisman again.
For that level of fame and notoriety, at the NFL's Play 60 predraft media event in Manhattan, Manziel was the last player announced at the Chelsea Park field.
The other 29 players were announced in small groups.
Manziel got his own introduction.
The other 29 players conducted interviews on the field alone after they played with the kids.
Johnny Football brought his own management team.
Manziel will be drafted, most likely today, but, possibly, tomorrow. He could go first overall to Houston, or he could be Geno Smith, spurned and burned backstage at Radio City Music Hall.
Manziel hopes that the success of athletic freewheelers Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson will play to his advantage; that the emergence of less traditional offenses might suit him more than the prototype quarterback.
"The NFL's changing," Manziel said. "You look at what Chip Kelly's doing in Philly, that hadn't been done a ton in the past. I don't think you have to be a certain height, a certain mold, a certain type of anything."
Manziel pulled Kelly's name out of thin air; indeed, the two might be a good combination. Both are headstrong, hyper-talented and unconcerned with what the world thinks about it. Kelly attended Manziel's Pro Day workout but, with young Nick Foles in place, Kelly more likely was there to watch receiver Mike Evans, the valedictorian of this wideout class that could see as many as eight receivers selected in the first round, one likely by the Birds.
Manziel and Kelly nearly hooked up at Oregon when Kelly coached there, but Manziel reneged on a verbal commitment and attended Texas A&M . . . where he was a finalist for the Heisman both seasons.
"Wherever I go, it's where I'm supposed to end up. Like me going to A&M instead of Oregon: Look what happened in my life. It was right for me," Manziel said. "Whether it's one or 200, I just want to play. I'm going to pour my heart out for that team and that fan base."
No one doubts that. Manziel plays with unabated passion.
The doubts arise as much from his attitude as his aptitude.
During his short stay at Texas A&M, Manziel was arrested for involvement in a racially charged fight; was suspended for part of a game in 2013 after an NCAA investigation into him selling his autograph; was kicked out of Peyton Manning's passing camp; tweeted his desire to leave college; and developed a trademark taunt, rubbing his thumb and fingers together whenever he made a "money" play.
Look at his family tree and you will see a hereditary bent for antisocial behavior - behavior to which Manziel believes he is entitled; behavior for which he believes there should be no consequence, for himself or his family.
"I feel like we've been through a lot the last couple of years, whether it's scrutiny or a lot of people coming into our lives," Manziel said.
There's a lot more coming. He was a protected, favorite son in College Station; a daily, national stage seems too much for him.
"I do have a chip on my shoulder. I've been doubted for a long time," said Manziel, who can't wait to make the teams that pass on him regret it. "I believe they will, personally. I know in my heart how good I want to be and how committed I am to this game. This is my life."
Character issues aside, even Manziel admits that he is years from being a polished NFL passer.
"You look at certain plays, there's times when I take off early and try to make something happen. I'm trying to eliminate those, play within the confines of an offense. Take what the defense gives me," Manziel said.
Every coach he met with told him as much, no doubt. ESPN analyst and former Super Bowl winner Jon Gruden did so on national television, to which Manziel alluded:
"I've dissected all those games the past two seasons and said, 'Man, I just could've done this and made it so much easier.' I see that. I see that there's room for me to improve," Manziel said. "To say that I'm just a backyard quarterback, I don't think you do what I did in college doing that. I don't think that's . . . fair. I hear it."
Clowney, meanwhile, is a signed contract and 16 games away from proving right the comparisons to Julius Peppers and Mario Williams.
Despite all of Manziel's electrifying, broken-play wizardry, it was Clowney who provided the college football's signature YouTube image of the decade: the projectile helmet decapitation of Michigan running back Vincent Smith. Clowney was a redshirt freshman at South Carolina in 2012 when he did that. He was ready for the NFL that day.
But despite Clowney's stupendous hairstyle, his comic-book physique and his undeniable results, a sandlot scrambler who is too short and too erratic and too fundamentally flawed has stolen his moment.
There's a sense that Manziel is a hustling, scrappy little fella whose genes somehow got a turbo boost in those last weeks of incubation; that he is closer to the norm of the species than a superman like Clowney, or the highest product of our evolution, Tom Brady.
In reality, Manziel is a solid 207 pounds and 6-feet tall, fine dimensions for an athletic quarterback in college but a little small unless, like Drew Brees, he's deadly accurate and breathtakingly smart.
Manziel tried humility: "I know I don't have all the answers. I feel like I have a high ceiling."
He's not alone. Former President George H. W. Bush attended Manziel's Pro Day. Manziel appeared in a McDonald's commercial with buddy LeBron James that celebrated "the best of the best." That sort of person needs protection.
His personal handlers hovered around the cluster of reporters interviewing Manziel. They allowed access to him for 15 minutes - half his scheduled time. Clowney and Teddy Bridgewater and the rest of the group stood there twice as long.
Maybe they're half as important.
It will be fascinating to see how the NFL's decision-makers view Manziel's personal rebuild.
"I think I've done a great job of alleviating concern," Manziel said. "Them getting to know me on a more personal level. I've answered every question, anything they wanted to hear from me. I don't think it's wrong of me to enjoy my life and have fun.
"There's nothing for me to hide."
Then he went and hid.