Johnny Manziel Impresses At ‘Pro Day,’ But Can He Do It Against NFL Defenses?

Johnny Manziel, the polarizing 21 year old former Heisman Trophy winner, put his skills on display for 30 of the 32 NFL teams Thursday morning and to paraphrase John Lennon, it looks like he passed the audition. It was “pro day” for Manziel, which is basically a private presentation of a college player’s skills for NFL coaches and execs to help top prospects get pro teams excited about drafting them.

The Johnny Manziel pro day was anything but private, however. It even caught the attention of one of the NFL’s top quarterbacks.

While Manziel impressed most of the team representatives in attendance, some delivering downright rave reviews, with the horde of media also in attendance to watch the scrambling, undersized signal caller who former Dallas Cowboys coach Barry Switzer just last month described as “an arrogant little prick,” the NFL teams were very clear on what they would be getting if they select Manziel in the 2014 draft.

They don’t just get a good football player. They get show business. One writer called the Johnny Manziel event, “the most hyped and well attended pro day in NFL history.”

As Oakland Raiders Head Coach Dennis Allen put it after the pro day hoopla dissipated Thursday, “There’s a little bit of Hollywood to it. But the guy came out and he threw the ball well.”

The crowd in attendance to watch Manziel even included a former U.S. president, a certain first for a college player’s pro day.

“Johnny Football” Manziel upped the theatrics by appearing on the indoor practice field at Texas A&M wearing a helmet and shoulder pads, a rare occurrence at a “pro day,” which basically consists of the player showing off his skills in the most advantageous way possible — with no opposing players on the field.

But despite the lack of an NFL defense bearing down on him, Manziel nonetheless celebrated a completed 50-yard toss by pantomiming Wild West-style blazing pistols.

Taking snaps only under center — he didn’t bother with the shotgun formation, though operating from the shotgun is a crucial skill in the NFL — Johnny Football hit his receiver in bounds on 62 out of 65 tries.

But while most of the NFL decision-makers in attendance came away impressed, they noted that a dazzling performance on an indoor field with no opposition is different ball game than attempting to lead an NFL team down the field against against National Football League defenses.

“I understand the drills. But there’s not a real rush here. There’s no [defensive backs],” said Houston Texans Coach Bill O’Brien, who nonetheless said he was impressed with Johnny Manziel. “To me, now it’s about, OK, now we get another chance. We met him at the combine, now we get another chance to sit down with him.”