One quick thing to address off the bat: please note the use of Mr. Manziel’s government name in this headline rather than his “Football” moniker. We here at The 300s are known to practice Journalism and I feel that is often forgotten.
Now that that is out of the way we can kind of sort through what is going on here.
It’s fairly important to first understand how a lot of these pre-draft showcases/work outs are structured and run before really looking at the opportunity Johnny Football (FUCK) has in front of him. In case you aren’t read up on your pageantry, have no fear friend, your pal Joey B has you covered. I used to be a draft nerd and I suppose I still am one to an extent as much like being a fan of anything pop culture or sports related, once you’re in, and it continues to exist, you’re always going to be sort of drawn to it. So let’s get down to brass tacks.
A Pro Day is sort of like an athletic program’s NFL Combine, the event where every player declared for the draft and deemed noteworthy by the league (they fuck that part up a lot) is, in front of a slew of pro scouts from every team and at a central location, run through both a standard set of drills and then another subset based on their position(s). At a pro day, in front of a group of scouts that choose to attend for specific players, players from the same football program can run through a very similar if not exact set of drills that they performed at the Combine but at their college athletic program’s facilities. This gives players a second chance to show what they can do but in a familiar environment (e.g they can run the 40 on the same track they always run on) while being directed by coaches they are comfortable with and working through the drills with fellow participants they know. There are exceptions of course. For instance, a lot of smaller schools’ players will work out at the Pro Day held by a larger school. I wish I could tell you how, for instance, Tuskegee players have the option to attend Troy’s pro day but I actually have no idea. Also, not all players involved in these drills are familiar with each other, both because of the aforementioned school inclusions and because of eligibility rules, which is where our Mr. Manziel (“J”) comes in.
For wide receivers, they obviously have to run routes and show off their speed, separation ability, change of direction, etc. They also need to show they can catch the ball, and so someone has to throw it to them. The problem is that their most recent starting QB might still have eligibility left, in which case he is not allowed to participate, the rest of his QBs might not yet be ready for the tasks and thus may make him look bad, or, in some cases, there simply may just not be anyone around. In the case of the University of San Diego in the year of our Lord 2018, they needed someone to toss the rock to the WRs participating in their pro day and have called in Johnny Manziel (::brushes shoulder off::) from the bullpen.
I personally think this is a great idea for the former first round pick. Why? Two big reasons in particular.
First, it’s a controlled environment. He is there for the receivers looking to enter the league so there will be nothing inhibiting what he is doing. There will be no pass rush, no motion or rolling out of any sort, and he will probably know the routes he will be throwing ahead of time. To elaborate on that last point, even if the routes aren’t disclosed to him it’s more than likely just the basic full WR route tree. He’s been through this before.
The second reason, and the reason I like this move the most and think it is sly and savvy as fuck, is that it shows humility. It’s humbling. Those two words would have not been within a paragraph of Johnny Manziel’s (I’m too respected by this point so I’m done with the jokes) name a few years or even months ago. At pro days, you never know who the QBs are. Their names are never mentioned. Once in awhile it will be a grad assistant or something from that school who was a starting QB a few years past so they bring it up for nostalgia sake (Hey! Look who’s tossin passes, it’s Tyler Palko!) but that’s about it. They’re the men behind the curtain. But in order to get out there and get seen and let it be known that he’ll do those two things by any means necessary, Manziel is willing to put on that cloak of anonymity and take on this fairly thankless role on Thursday. It’s brilliant.
Everyone loves a good comeback story. We’re seeing it with Tiger Woods this year. I think this is a legit step for Johnny Manziel to truly, surely prove he is serious about getting back in the league in any capacity. I’ll be waiting to hear how he looks Thursday, if we even do.