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Manziel Auditioning for Man's League

Johnny Manziel is one of the central figures in this week’s combine because of his play on and off the field the last two years at Texas A&M. With multiple teams near the top of the draft needing quarterbacks, Manziel ranks in the pecking order to be an early choice.





INDIANAPOLIS –Crusty Texas quarterback Bobby Layne once uttered a classic line about his lifestyle, "I want to draw my last dollar and last breath at the same time."

Layne's swashbuckling style partly comes to mind when looking at Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, who at a quarter-inch under six feet and weighing 207 pounds has cast quite a presence at the combine.

Opinions differ on the two-year Aggie who won the Heisman as a redshirt freshman and who had 9,989 yards of total offense (7,820 passing) and 93 touchdowns (63 passing).

"He's fun to watch on film," said John Elway, who styled his way through a successful career.

"There are a bunch of 6-5 successful guys who are athletic.  The 5-11 guys, it has to (pose) a question mark," said Arizona's Bruce Arians.  "I go back to Doug Flutie.  It took Doug a long time to become a very successful quarterback in the league at that size and athletic ability. 

"He's (Manziel) a little different player than Drew Brees, who's a little bit taller.  Russell (Wilson) was extremely successful this year.  I think you're starting to see some guys to compare him to."

Manziel posted a 20-6 record in the nation's top conference **(click here to watch highlights)**.  His exploits off the field entertained Twitter readers, drew an NCAA investigation and even produced an arrest.  Somewhere, Bobby may have been smiling.

With at least five of the top eight teams in the draft looking for quarterbacks, it needs to be determined if Manziel represents a Manning-Leaf conundrum. 

Choices beyond Manziel include Central Florida's Blake Bortles and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater.  Most draftniks have them as the top three, but orders do differ.

"None of these guys are Andrew Luck," said the NFL Network's Mike Mayock.  "None are Peyton Manning.  None you sit there and say, "It's a slam dunk.  This is an easy one."

History may not be on Manziel's side – Rex Grossman and Michael Vick are the only two quarterbacks under 6-1 drafted in the first round since 1970.

Manziel is about making history.   He wants to be taken first overall by Houston, and he stood tall in the saddle under combine media scrutiny.

"I play with a lot of heart, a lot of passion," said Manziel **(click here to watch Manziel interview)**.  "I feel like I play like I'm 10-feet tall.  A measurement to me is just a number."

In a 15-minute availability, Manziel deftly, and believably, handled as many questions about his character as he did his talent/style.

Like LSU's Tyann Mathieu did last year in such a combine moment and backed it up with a respectable rookie season, Manziel seems to have crossed a threshold in comportment.

"I'm from a small town of Kerrville, Texas, 20,000 people. (I) get lost in kind of the people who make me out to be a big Hollywood guy," said Manziel.  "Whenever I decided to make this decision to turn professional it was a time to really put my college years in the past.

"This is a job now.  There's guys' families, coaches' families and jobs and all kinds of things on the line.  For me it's nothing, it won't be a hard thing to kick.  I'm extremely focused on whatever organization I'll be at and really pouring my heart out trying to be football 24/7 with that team."

Manziel paled in some comparisons to Bortles (6-5, 232) and Bridgewater (6-2, 214), but his hand measurement (one-eight inch smaller than 10) was better than both **(click here for Bridgewater interview)**.  A hand size of 10 is an NFL barometer, given the need for ball security under pressure and in late-season elements.

Manziel ran 345 times in two seasons, including 144 times in 2013.  Dodging SEC and NFL defenders represents vastly different levels of survival.    

Two of the game's most active quarterback who run – Cam Newton (6-5, 245; 253 rushes in last two years) and Colin Kaepernick (6-4, 230, 157 rushes in 2012-13) are better built to take the hits.

With each team able to interview 60 players, inquiring minds may include 32 teams trying to divine the veracity of Manziel's package.

Ryan Grigson wants interviewees to "drop the BS at the door.  Let us in to who and what they are.  If they have made mistakes we want them to act like men, own up to it and discuss it.  We want guys to be real."

Manziel, who will not throw until his pro day March 27, likely has been grilled as such this weekend.  It is the best way for him to look decision makers in the eye and sell his wares.

"I'm going to be myself," said Manziel.  "There's nothing I can do going back to change what's on film.  Hopefully what's on film will speak volumes.

"It's a chance for them to know me personally, ask whatever questions they want.  I'm not shying away from anything they do have to ask me."

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