Johnny Manziel’s pro day Tuesday definitely wasn’t of the rock-star variety.
It was short on scripted glitz, but maybe it packed more substance than his first one four years ago.
Manziel, the former Texas A&M star quarterback and the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, was a last-minute addition to Tuesday’s pro-day lineup in Aggieland. Scouts and coaches, representing 32 NFL teams, gathered at A&M’s indoor practice complex to check out such future rookies as receiver Christian Kirk and safety Armani Watts. A&M didn’t confirm that Manziel would participate until Monday afternoon.
“Hearing really good reports from my scouts on the ground on how Johnny Manziel’s workout went today at Texas A&M’s pro day,” former Dallas Cowboys personnel director Gil Brandt posted on Twitter. “One said he even looked better than he did in 2014.”
On Wednesday, Manziel will continue his football comeback quest when he reports for The Spring League in Austin. He’ll practice, study film and scrimmage for roughly the next two weeks with nearly 150 other players who have similar pro dreams.
Manziel said he wants a chance to show he’s not the former first-round draft pick who flamed out with the Cleveland Browns and whose off-field bad behavior and issues with substance abuse made for TMZ-friendly headlines.
“I haven’t felt this good in a long, long time from a mental standpoint and a physical standpoint,” Manziel said Tuesday. “I felt like the ball came out really well today.”
The last time Manziel worked out in front of the pro scouts in College Station was four years ago to the day. Hundreds of people, including former President George H.W. Bush, his wife, Barbara, and their secret service detail, took in the frenetic scene. Manziel was dressed in a helmet, black jersey, shoulder pads and camouflage shorts, and rock music pulsed from the loud speakers.
The NFL Network did live reports from the scene. Immediately after his workout, Nike posted a tweet advertising its Manziel “pro day collection.”
On Tuesday, Manziel was decked out in black A&M adidas gear, just like all the other former Aggies players working to catch the eyes of NFL scouts. Manziel does have his own comeback line of merchandise, including a special Spring League t-shirt, and he’s been advertising the line since January via social media. Manziel’s been out of the NFL since March 2016, but he still has more than 2.1 million Twitter followers.
A private film crew followed Manziel and interviewed others associated with the quarterback. Manziel’s wife, Bre, and his father were on hand to watch him work out.
Unlike four years ago, though, Manziel had to share the spotlight.
It was Kirk who suggested Manziel throw at pro day in College Station when the two talked in January. Luis Perez, the San Diego native who won the Harlon Hill Award while starring for Texas A&M-Commerce, split snaps with Manziel at quarterback. Kirk said it was Perez who scripted the workouts. A coach from the New Orleans Saints barked out orders to the receivers.
Manziel and Perez threw deep passes and short slants to Kirk and Damion Ratley. Former A&M tailback Keith Ford also showed off his receiving skills.
Former Aggies receiver Mike Evans was on hand to cheer on Manziel.
“He seems like he’s in his right mind,” Evans said, adding that his old teammate looks like an NFL starting quarterback. “Like I said, looks like he’s turned over his life for the better.”
New Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher was cool with having Manziel around because he said former players always will be family. Then Fisher walked back to the A&M football office where he was working in the film room with his old pupil, former Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner.
No NFL head coaches or general managers were in attendance Tuesday, and it remains to be seen how welcome Manziel will be in the NFL.
Manziel said if he doesn’t sign an NFL contract after The Spring League, he will head to the Canadian Football League where the Hamilton Tiger-Cats own his rights.
Right now, he said, he’s focusing on the basics of football and not speculation about whether an NFL team would be interested in adding him to the roster.
“I’ve blocked it off,” Manziel said. “I can’t do anything about it, I can’t stress about it, all I can do is make sure where I need to be, where I’m mentally, where I’m at physically.”
What: A combination of the NBA G League and the NFL scouting combine, with the goal of showcasing pro football hopefuls. Approximately 150 players have been divided into four teams: East, South, Midwest and West. The season runs through April 13; quarterbacks will report on Wednesday
Games: April 7, doubleheader, 1:30 and 4:30 p.m.; April 12, doubleheader, 5:30 and 8 p.m.
Where: Reeves Athletic Complex, 10211 W. Parmer Lane
Tickets: General admission to the April 7 or April 12 games costs $39.50.
Broadcast: Turner Sports livestream