NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — “Johnny Football” is coming to an NFL city near you.
After lighting up college stadiums for two seasons at Texas A&M, quarterback Johnny Manziel announced Wednesday that he is foregoing his final two years of eligibility to turn professional.
“After long discussions with my family, friends, teammates, and coaches, I have decided to make myself available for the 2014 NFL Draft,” Manziel said. “The decision was such a tough one for me because of how much I wanted to go back and be with all those guys that I love playing with, and to work with Coach (Kevin) Sumlin and Coach (Jake Spavital) Spav and be part of a program that’s continuing to grow. But I felt like this is what’s best for me now.
“I feel very relieved. It’s a weight off my shoulders. I’m ready to become a professional and dedicate myself to making my dream a reality of becoming the best quarterback I can be.”
The 21-year-old Manziel is projected by most NFL draft observers to be a first-round pick and potentially a Top 5 selection with several franchises with big needs at quarterback near the top of the draft (Texans, Jaguars, Browns, Raiders and Vikings).
Manziel became the first freshman to ever win the Heisman Trophy, passing for 3,706 yards and rushing for another 1,410, to go along with his 47 total touchdowns, as the Aggies rolled to an 11-2 record and a win over No. 1 Alabama.
His dynamic play created a frenzy and pushed him into a stratosphere of celebrity that few college athletes have reached. That began to cause problems since Manziel, who is from Kerrville, Texas, still had three years of eligibility remaining.
He followed his Heisman-winning season with a high-profile offseason of road trips to Las Vegas and the NBA Finals. Manziel met Heat star LeBron James and rapper Drake, and he posted some tweets that made headlines. One that brought the ire of Aggie fans was when he said he “couldn’t wait” to get out of College Station.
His most embarrassing blunder came during the summer when he departed early from a quarterback camp for high school players run by the Manning family in Louisiana. Manziel said it was a mutual decision after he overslept and missed meetings and activities.
Manziel’s trouble continued when he got back to football. He was suspended for the first half of the Aggies’ season opener against Rice for what the school said was an “inadvertent” violation of NCAA rules. He was investigated for allegedly accepting money for autographs from memorabilia brokers, a violation of NCAA rules that could have led to a much longer suspension.
Despite all that, back on the field Manziel had no problem showing that his freshman season was no fluke as he completed 70 percent of his passes for 4,114 yards and 37 touchdowns through the air and rushed for 759 yards and nine scores as a sophomore. He finished fifth in the Heisman voting behind winner Jameis Winston of Florida State.
In a style befitting his record-setting career, Manziel led the Aggies (9-4) to a 52-48 come-from-behind win over Duke in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl on New Year’s Eve in his final college game. Texas A&M trailed 38-17 at halftime before Manziel guided them to the victory by finishing with 382 yards passing with four TD tosses and 73 yards rushing and another score.
Manziel finished his A&M career with 93 career TDs and just 22 INTs and guided A&M to 20 wins in its first two season in the SEC, the nation’s toughest conference.
Despite all of his accolades and gaudy statistics, NFL player personnel gurus will undoubtedly be looking at Manziel’s size when deciding if he’s worth a first-round selection. Manziel is just 6-foot, 203 pounds, which is hardly prototypical by NFL standards. However, he’s quite adept with his legs and seems like a perfect candidate to run the read-option, which has become the offense du jour of late throughout the league.
Manziel has also been lauded as a very fast learner, with a penchant for reading and reacting better than most.
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