Three former Texas A&M Aggies spoke about Johnny Manziel recently, one of them being Manziel himself. Former stars, and high first round picks, Jake Matthews and Mike Evans were in Berea for the Rookie Symposium put on by the NFL. Like all of the Cleveland Browns players, they were asked about Manziel. Their reports, which should hold a lot of weight, were similar to the ones we hear coming out of A&M during his career: He parties hard, he studies hard, he plays hard. First lets start with quotes from Matthews written up by Nate Ulrich of Ohio.com:
“I trusted him,” said Matthews, the sixth overall pick in this year’s draft. “He was ‘one of the guys’ in the locker room for sure, and I didn’t resent him.
“He came in and worked every day, and I know he’s going to do that here. He did a lot of good things at A&M, and I’ve got no complaints.”
“His determination, his attitude, his work ethic — he gets after it,” Matthews said. “When he’s on the field, he’s got the mindset that no one’s better than him. I really enjoyed blocking for him. I’m proud to say I blocked for him and I blocked for a Heisman Trophy winner, and I think he’s going to do a lot of really good things here.
“When we’re in the huddle, he’s in control. When he talks, everyone listens and that was one of the things I really picked up from him. His determination, man, he was not going to take no for an answer. That’s what I loved about him the most. He’s one of truest competitors I’ve ever seen.”
Matthews comes from a long line of NFL players in his family and is a down to earth type of person and player. If there was one player expected to push against the way Manziel was it would of been him. Yet Matthews backs Manziel as a hard worker, like everyone else in the locker room and a competitor. For Browns fans the determination that Matthews speaks of has to excite you. Most remember the Duke game where he showed demonstrative desire to win the bowl game. Matthews speaks as if that determination is present with Manziel every day. If one of the big uglies loved Manziel what about his receiver in Evans, quotes from SportsDayDFW out of Dallas:
“He’s commitment to the team. He’s a competitor, and he wants to win. What he does off the field is none of my business.”
“He’s a great guy,” Evans reportedly said. “He practiced hard. He came to work. He’s one of my best friends. So I wouldn’t trade him for anybody. I think he’ll be a great pro. He’s a great guy. He’s a better guy than most people give him credit for.”
“I think he should be the starter,” Evans told reporters. “That’s my biased opinion. He’s a great quarterback. I think he’s the best quarterback prospect in this draft, and I think he’ll change the program here in Cleveland.”
Evans statement that what he does off the field is none of his business is most likely what most Browns players feel as well. As long as Manziel comes to play it does not worry professional players what is going on off the field, as long as it doesn’t impact the on the field performance. Obviously Evans is biased, even noting Manziel is one of his best friends, but noting that Manziel practiced hard is a huge thing for professional players. Allen Iverson’s rant about practice wouldn’t sit pretty in an NFL locker room. That is where Johnny Football has to become Johnny Playbook, Johnny Filmroom and Johnny First One in Last One Out. Do those things and Evans may just get his wish, Manziel as a starter.
For his part Manziel has made it clear, in the video embedded below, that he doesn’t plan to change who he is. For most people, much less professional athletes, you have to be able to live life naturally and free. Being yourself is a huge part of working through your issues. “Fake to make it” doesn’t work for most people. Instead Manziel, like many of us, will learn from mistakes, big and small. For my take, I appreciate a player who goes all out in everything he does and as long as that is true on the field, practice and film room, I’m okay with whatever else he does. Take a listen as Manziel talks about Manziel.