Johnny Manziel arrived to his media session Friday through the back door. It’s the same route big draws Manti Teo, Cam Newton and Tim Tebow took in recent years.
NFL draft expert Gil Brandt called Manziel’s 15-minute, 18-second Q&A the most well attended in NFL Scouting Combine history.
But the Texas A&M star hopes to walk into the NFL through the front door after Russell Wilson “knocked it down” for him. Wilson measured 5-10 5/8 at the 2012 combine and wasn’t drafted until the third round but became the Super Bowl XLVIII-winning quarterback.
Manziel, a shade under 6 feet, expects to go in the top-four selections, possibly No. 1 overall to the Houston Texans.
“Size doesn’t matter,” Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Friday. “We’ve learned that Russell’s a great football player and a great competitor, and it just doesn’t matter what package he comes in. It’s not because he’s 5-11 1/2 that he’s a great football player. He’s a great football player.
“It’s interesting now. Here we are in another draft with some notable players that are likewise. I think it was Johnny that said Russell had opened the door for him and guys like him. That’s true. Prior to the last couple of years, the general thinking was that a guy of Russell’s stature couldn’t play, which obviously is wrong. It’s just wrong. Anybody who said that is wrong.”
Manziel, who had predicted last week he would measure exactly 72 inches, didn’t quite reach the mark. He measured 5-11 3/4 Friday and weighed 207 pounds.
Manziel, though, insists he is tall enough.
“I play with a lot of heart, play with a lot of passion,” Manziel said. “I feel like I play like I’m 10 feet tall. A measurement to me is just a number.”
Manziel passed for 7,820 yards, ran for 2,169 yards and accounted for 93 total touchdowns in two seasons at A&M, winning the 2012 Heisman Trophy as a redshirt freshman.
“He’s the same size [today] he was when he was doing everything that got him to this point,” said George Whitfield Jr., Manziel’s personal quarterback coach.
Although he won’t throw Sunday, even as another top-rated prospect, Central Florida’s Blake Bortles, will, Manziel still faces an important weekend. His medical report offered no concerns, according to a source, despite the jammed thumb he had on his throwing hand late last season.
Manziel began the interview process Friday night, answering off-the-field concerns from teams. He meets with the Dallas Cowboys and the Houston Texans on Saturday night.
Manziel sought advice from several NFL veterans, including Tom Brady. The two talked last week.
“[He told me] to enjoy the process,” Manziel said. “He kind of gave me a little joke about teaching him to run like I can, and he’ll do anything in the world for me. It was pretty funny.”
At the same time Manziel talked Friday, Texans coach Bill O’Brien held court on the other end of the room. In an interview with the Star-Telegram and the Houston Chronicle last week in San Diego, Manziel warned the Texans against passing on him.
“It would be the worst decision they’ve ever made,” Manziel had said.
Texans general manager Rick Smith, who followed O’Brien on the podium, smiled when asked about Manziel’s comment.
“He’s a colorful, confident guy,” Smith said. “You’ve got to appreciate that about him. I don’t have any problem with that.”
Scouts don’t seem to have a problem with Manziel’s size either. He will become only the third modern-era quarterback shorter than 6-1 drafted in the first round, joining Rex Grossman and Michael Vick.