Considering the relatively short distance from Valley Ranch to College Station, Texas, it should come as no surprise the Cowboys were on hand for Johnny Manziel’s Pro Day workout Thursday.
Considering the frenzy that follows the Heisman Trophy winner and likely top 10 draft pick everywhere he goes, it isn’t much of a surprise to hear who else was there, either. A whopping 31 of the NFL’s 32 clubs were just part of the throng at Manziel’s workout, which included television coverage and even a former President, George H.W. Bush.
In front of all those eyes, Manziel put on a show in a comprehensive routine he devised with quarterback coach George Whitfield, who also helped Cam Newton and Andrew Luck prepare for the NFL draft.
“I thought he made big throws in games, but it’s different when you have to come up on stage and you’ve got, the world, pretty much, in here to watch it,” Whitfield said. “And they saw ‘Ok, let’s see it. Not wearing No. 2, not with the 12th Man behind you. Let’s see you do it.’ And I thought he went up and knocked it out of the park.”
Manziel, who opted to wear shoulder pads and a helmet for his workout, reportedly completed 61 of 63 passes in pass drills with his college wide receivers, including fellow top prospect Mike Evans. Famous for his improvisational skills from the shotgun formation, Manziel notably took his snaps from under center.
“He played under center on all the throws. He showed movement throws, he showed drop-back throws, quicks, and he threw the ball all over the field,” said Cowboys quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson. “So I was very impressed. He was very accurate and had plenty of velocity on the throws, as well.”
Aside from the critique that he spent too much time in the shotgun, there has been a bevy of commentary about Manziel’s game, including his arm strength within the Aggies’ wide-open offense.
“We wanted to make it challenging,” Manziel said of the workout. “We wanted to show that we didn’t have anything to hide and that we could come out here, go through our seven-step footwork, go through all the footwork that we thought these guys wanted to see.”
Wilson, with his 17-year playing career as a quarterback and 15-year coaching career, said it was good to see Manziel operate in person after studying him on video tape. He added that the performance should quell any questions about the star quarterback’s credentials.
“I saw him at the Combine, where he didn’t throw, so this is my first time to really see him throw in person – just wanted to see his arm strength,” Wilson said. “He has plenty of arm strength to play, no question about that.”
All of that is sure to fuel even more commentary about Manziel’s potential landing spot in next month’s draft. Some projections have him going No. 1 overall, while others have him falling as far as the middle of the first round – though it seems unlikely the Cowboys would take him, even if he fell to them.
Manziel was asked after the workout if he’d like to play his pro career in Texas – more likely as a member of the Houston Texans, who pick No. 1 overall, than the Cowboys. He repeated the popular refrain with draft prospects that he can’t worry too much about things beyond his control.
“I’d love to stay in Texas. I’ve been here my entire life, but it’s really out of my control,” he said. “All I can do is come out here and try to put on the best show possible – go into these meetings and try to show these guys a side of me that not a lot of people get to see.”