INDIANAPOLIS — To some, Johnny Manziel is larger than life, even if he's less than 6 feet tall.
Manziel, who measured in at 5-11 3/4 and 207 pounds at the NFL scouting combine, admitted that his metaphysical size is much larger than his measured mass.
"I play with a lot of heart. I play with a lot of passion. I feel like I play like I am 10-feet tall," said Manziel, who met with the media Friday. "Measurement, to me, is just a number."
The Texas A&M quarterback is a candidate to go in the first 10 picks of the draft, and perhaps No. 1 to the Houston Texans. In an interesting coincidence, Texans head coach Bill O'Brien was speaking at the same time as Manziel across the room in the entryway to Lucas Oil Stadium.
Manziel made some waves last week when he dared the Texans to pass on him. With reports out that Manziel and the Texans were set to meet Saturday, he tried his best to temper the previous comments.
"I wish there would have been other comments from the article that were taken more seriously than that one," Manziel said. "The main thing I wanted [to be read] ... was that whatever team I end up with, whether it was any of the 32 teams, if I do get to that team, whenever I am in that organization ... I am going to do anything for that organization."
Although O'Brien sidestepped the making-the-Texans pay question largely, Texans general manager Rick Smith had a great response to it.
"He's a colorful, confident guy," Smith said. "You have to appreciate that about him. I don't have a problem with that."
A unique prospect, Manziel's height — Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians is not a fan of short quarterbacks — is not the only roadblock in his run-up to the draft. Naturally, the character concerns are chief among them. A well-coached Manziel handled most of the questions about his lifestyle like he might most pass rushers, ably brushing them aside with prepared answers.
But when asked if the report last summer about him receiving professional therapy for both alcohol and anger issues were true and if he's continuing to receive treatment, Manziel seemed to stumble.
"No, sir, I don't believe those are true," he said. "After, um, last spring, Coach [Kevin] Sumlin came to me and said their house guy wanted to sit down and meet with me, and I was willing to learn whatever I could from him. I had meetings with him, and those continued the next couple years. It was really nothing more than that."
Manziel also must answer questions about his style of play, which — while vogue in the NFL right now with the likes of Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and others — is still a reputation Manziel is trying to fight. And he delivered the message with some of his trademark bravado.
“I am looking forward to showing up all the people who say I am just an improviser," he said. "I feel like I worked extremely hard this year to all around hone in on my game."
No one is questioning Manziel's guts. As evidence of his leadership, toughness and demeanor, he cited the bowl game against Duke in which the Aggies were struggling, but Manziel helped lead his team back to a 52-48 victory with a triumphant performance — 382 yards and four passing TDs, plus 73 yards rushing and another score on the ground — in what would end up being his final college performance.
"It wasn't looking as great as we wanted [it] to in the first half, and between me, [receiver] Mike [Evans], some of these seniors, we just rallied no matter how deep, how dark it looked on the scoreboard," Manziel said. "I think the guys on my team know that I'll do anything and everything for them until there's no time on the clock, on or off the field."
Manziel is working out in San Diego with noted QB coach George Whitfield, looking to maintain top conditioning and also put a coat of polish on his game. A few aspects Manziel mentioned wanting to improve included "keeping my eyes downfield and being accurate with my passes," two things that will be essential in the pros.
Manziel spoke with composure, if not a little bit of a flat-line approach, on Friday. He said he wanted to make people get to know the real Johnny Manziel, even if he invoked his third-person privileges in the process.
"Johnny Manziel is a guy that is from a small town in Texas," he said.
With a big game and natural buzz in his wake.
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