Johnny Manziel ranks as the draft’s top storyline

05/07/2014 7:38 PM

11/12/2014 5:12 PM

Jake Matthews and Johnny Manziel walked together to their assigned interview area on the field at Chelsea Waterside Park on Wednesday. Media quickly swarmed the Texas A&M quarterback.

“I’ll just be over here if you need me,” Matthews said, smiling.

But Matthews, Manziel’s left tackle last season, might hear his name called first among the three Aggies expected to go in the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday night.

A&M last had three players taken in the first round in 1994, but it has never had three selected in the top 10 of the same draft. The last school to have three top-10 picks was Oklahoma in 2010.

“I hope it brings a lot of attention to A&M and shows where the program has come from,” Matthews said.

Matthews could go as high as No. 2 overall to the St. Louis Rams, and most projections have A&M receiver Mike Evans going No. 7 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Manziel’s future home seems less certain, though he was the most exciting player in college football the past two seasons.

“I think everything will work out the way it’s supposed to,” Manziel said. “Whether it’s one or 200, I just want to play football, and that’s all I want to do.”

The Houston Texans, who hold the No. 1 overall pick, haven’t tipped their hand. While saying he has yet to hear from the Texans one way or the other, Manziel seems resigned to the fact that he won’t be the top choice.

He mentioned Jacksonville — unsolicited — during his 20-minute interview session, pointing out how hard the Jaguars played for Gus Bradley last season. And indeed rumors began to heat up Wednesday that the Jaguars want Manziel with the third overall choice.

Cleveland, Minnesota and Tampa Bay also could use a quarterback, but some mock drafts, including Mike Mayock’s, have Manziel sliding out of the top 15, as improbable as it seems. That would give Jerry Jones an interesting decision at No. 16.

The Cowboys signed Tony Romo to a contract extension a year ago that guarantees him $55 million, and after ranking last in total defense in 2013, Dallas obviously has bigger needs than a quarterback. But Jones loves Manziel, a guest in Jones’ suite during the NCAA Final Four.

Wearing a star on his helmet, Manziel would become an even bigger star before even taking a snap.

“That’s a team I grew up rooting for and I grew up watching,” Manziel said. “To be able to know Jerry on a little more personable level now, going to games at his suite or going to Cowboys Stadium and running into him, that was something that was really cool. He’s a huge figure in the state of Texas and being from the state of Texas, it was really cool to get a chance to know him and get to know him more. The way he has treated me has been great.

“I would obviously like to go a little bit sooner than that, but it’s out of my control and whatever happens, happens.”

Manziel repeated what he told the Star-Telegram in February: Teams that don’t draft him will regret it. His personal quarterbacks coach, George Whitfield, doesn’t expect many teams to pass on Manziel.

“It’s not a matter of who has the unmitigated gall to take him,” Whitfield said, cleaning up his quote. “It’s going to be which of those downtrodden franchises has the unmitigated gall to pass on him.”

Wherever he goes, Manziel promises to bring excitement. He was the most popular player at the prospects’ events in New York on Wednesday and needed no introduction when he met NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at the league offices.

“Johnny Football!” Goodell said when asked about what Manziel brings to the NFL. “I think he represents so much passion for the game, so much excitement. If he brings that to the NFL, that would be a great thing for us, and I think a great thing for the fans. He’s a wonderful young man. I had a chance to spend some time with him [Wednesday]. He’s obviously focused and determined to be successful.”

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