Former President George H.W. Bush watched from a golf cart with his wife, Barbara. Nearly 400 people joined them on the sidelines, including eight NFL general managers and eight head coaches.
The object of the attention wore a helmet and shoulder pads for an indoor workout. There were no defenders, but a broom and beanbags.
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel held his pro day workout Thursday in College Station, Texas, and it was unlike any other pro day.
Despite the extreme scrutiny — NFL Network and ESPN carried it live — background music and loud bells and whistles, the workout had the same purpose as others: to show NFL talent evaluators his throwing ability.
The Browns joined the Bears as the only teams not to attend, but Cleveland plans a private workout before the draft in May. The Browns have the No. 4 pick, and a quarterback is a definite possibility.
“I’m not disappointed,” Manziel told reporters when asked about the Browns. “If they wanted to be here, they had the opportunity to. I don’t think anything of it.”
Manziel had a good day.
He completed 61 of 64 passes, including the first 35, according to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. The three misses were a catch out of bounds, a drop and a wide throw on a deep cross that went off the receiver’s outstretched hands.
“I was a little disappointed. I was going for perfection today,” Manziel said during an interview with ESPN minutes after the workout.
He wasn’t perfect, but he showed his famous athleticism on rollouts and was generally accurate with good velocity and power. He was at his best on deep throws, displaying deft touch.
He ripped a 50-yard sideline rout as he rolled right. He was right on time and on target with a 50-yard go route. He ended the session with a perfect 55-yard pass to possible top-10 receiver Mike Evans, then ran downfield to celebrate with a leaping chest-bump.
“My main thing was I’m not scared of anything,” Manziel said on NFL Network. “I don’t play that way on the field, why come out here in a scripted workout and be scared of anything?
“I can make any throw out here on this field and hopefully compete with anybody.”
Pro days are supposed to showcase the quarterback’s talent, but they’re not all smashing successes. Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, another top quarterback candidate, struggled with his accuracy and delivery last week.
Manziel didn’t have those problems while throwing in black helmet, shoulder pads, black jersey and camouflage shorts. The normal uniform is T-shirt and shorts, which was the attire worn by his receivers.
“I’ve never seen anybody trot out on the field on Sunday when it’s time to play a game and have shorts and a T-shirt on,” he said. “It didn’t make any sense for me today.
“I don’t have anything to hide. I felt like I could come out here and make any throw that these guys asked me to. Why not do it in shoulder pads?”
Manziel did a couple of other things unusual for a pro day. He huddled with his receivers between plays to show leadership and command, and took the snaps directly from center to show he can operate in a pro system.
George Whitfield, his personal coach, would occasionally come at him with a broom to force him to move away from the pass rush. He also threw beanbags as a distraction.
A solid choreographed workout can’t answer all the questions and doubts about Manziel (5-foot-11¾ and 207 pounds), but it seemed to remove any concerns about the strength of his arm.
“I was very impressed,” NFL Network analyst and former Super Bowl quarterback Kurt Warner said. “It’s what you’d want to see, what you’d expect to see. There are little footwork things he can clean up.
“He showed us he can make all the throws. Can he be that guy in the pocket that you need him to be?”
Manziel has and will meet with several teams picking near the top of the draft. He was asked the biggest question he will have to answer.
“I just want to let these guys know that my focus is football,” he said. “This is my life, this is what I love to do and I’ve never been more dedicated, more committed in my entire life.
“The guys that play this game at a high level, I have the utmost respect for. At the same time, I want to be one of those guys one day. I see what it takes for them to be great, you have to put the time in, you have to be dedicated to it, I’m 100 percent that way.”
Manziel hopped from interview to interview and embraced the big stage, just like he did during his time with the Aggies, when he was the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy.
“I think the kid loves competition,” NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said. “He lights up like a Christmas tree when all these GMs (are here).”
Not to mention a former president, who lives in Texas and is a big football fan.
“That was awesome,” Manziel said of Bush watching. “I’m glad he came out.”