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Exclusive: Manziel opens up about NFL decision
January 8, 2014
On the decision to leave Texas A&M for the NFL…"The hardest thing was all of the people who thought that because of what went on over the summer or in the past, that it was sure that I was (going to leave). Everybody was jumping to that conclusion but, for me, my decision wasn't made until really recently. I had to sit there and weigh all of the options.
"The toughest thing was leaving guys like Coach Sumlin and Coach Spavital and everybody on the staff here at A&M. It's going to be hard leaving all of the people around Aggieland and mainly my teammates. With the way that recruiting is going and seeing all of that and wanting to be a part of that, it (makes it) hard to take off. But when I got the grades back from the NFL Draft board and looked at it and weighed all of the options with my family, it was in my best interest to take the next step."
On the NFL Draft grades being nearly consensus first-round grades…"It was three first-round grades and the last one was a '1/2' depending on the bowl game and the whole process leading up to the Draft."
On his relationship with the 12th Man…"It's been awesome. The love that this university has shown me is something that I'll forever be grateful for. How special of an environment it is; how special this town is; how special everything and everyone in this university is — and how they treated me was awesome. It was really tough [to decide to leave].
"To come from the days of Coach Sherman and Coach Rossley being here, and learning from them, and (their) exit … and then to watch Coach Sumlin come in with a lot of uncertainty and seeing where Coach Sumlin has taken the program … that's something that I'll miss the most. This program has gone to heights that have never really been seen before."
"If you look at what A&M is doing through recruiting and at the energy and the swag that Coach Sumlin brings, it's going to take a few more pieces and some players to step up. The tools are definitely here. The coaches are here and the work ethic is here with Coach Jackson and what they do in the offseason. There are things that are in place that look good for A&M down the road, and I'm going to come back and continue to cheer this program on and continue to be one of — if not the — biggest supporters of this program for the rest of my life."
On the future of A&M football under Sumlin…
On whether the success of Russell Wilson and and Chip Kelly's offense have made him more excited about the jump..."I haven't looked at it all that much but, in the big scheme of things, the quarterback position is evolving. Even Andrew Luck is a guy that can move around and be mobile and still make plays with his feet — like the other night, the ball bounces off his head, he picks it up and dives in. You look at guys like him, he's more pro-style pocket passer but still has some things to his game that translate to a mobile quarterback, you look at RG3, guys like Mike Vick, you've had a ton of guys — Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick — who are doing things with the read-option right now that are really changing the game.
"I feel like I can compete on that level. I'm not saying I'm there right now; I'm going to have a lot of work to do and Friday I'm starting the road to my goals of being an NFL quarterback. A lot of things to work on and continue to get better at."
On what he's looking at working on the most..."First and foremost I want to get into great shape. You have a football season, you don't get to work out and do some of those things as much as you would like. To get back out there, get on the beach, continue to run in the sand, work on agility, work on things that I need to have for the Combine moving forward. Then, after the Combine, come back and really hone in on throwing and hone in on Pro Day and things I need to do to try and boost this draft stock as much as possible."
On the last month of his life and whether his second Heisman ceremony changed things for him..."Just going on that trip, I was just at ease and at peace with everything. Things around here were good, everything through football was alright even though we had come off of some disappointing performances. You can't harp on those, you can't stay on those and let them eat at you, you have to continue to move on. And when I got to New York, having my family there, having a great group of friends, Coach Spav being there, all the coaches and Coach Sumlin, just having them there, I felt at peace. I felt like all the people that said that last year was a fluke and the people that said I wouldn't get back to where I was — I'm just so thankful for my teammates who've helped me and allowed me to get to that point — I just really was at peace with everything.
"I just enjoyed the trip and got to spend time with my family and got to enjoy it. For all the chaos and all the things that went on in August, July and June, throughout there, it was nice to finally say, 'Just one more game left. There's one more hurrah in the season.' So I was definitely in a little bit of a zone throughout the last couple months. But I enjoyed every single second of it."
On where the Chick-fil-A Bowl ranks on his list of games at A&M and how badly he and his team wanted to win it..."I think it probably ranks up at No. 2 or No. 3 in all-time memories from here. Just coming out really flat and some of the guys coming out like — we just really didn't show up. What makes it memorable for me is having to try and pull those guys back and really trying to get them as focused as I could, because that game, for me, I was in a different zone even running out on the field, even walking to the stadium. I'm sorry to the Aggie faithful, going through the Spirit Walk and not shaking hands, because I was in such a different zone that day that I wanted to go out and perform and really go out in that bowl game with a bang.
"I wanted to try and get those guys and rally them around and get them together and bring some energy, especially the play where I just had to hurdle through and popped out of it, that was a play that really brought the excitement back. That's something I tried to do throughout those drives — get the excitement back, get the crowd in the game, get the defense some momentum and try to get those guys pumped. I kept telling them, 'Don't look at the scoreboard. Continue to do what we do. Play hard and play for each and every one of your brothers on this field."
On whether he realizes the greatness of his plays while they are happening..."I know in the Alabama game, when the ball kind of popped out and I turned around, it was almost like a little flash. It's almost like instincts just take over and it just naturally happens. It's almost like a little blackout there for a minute, and the next thing I know...
"The Duke play was kind of the same way, and so was even going back to the double-spin move (against Arkansas) or some of the other plays we had throughout the year that just played out that way."
On getting past the off-field issues from the summer..."I think once I got past SEC Media Days and once I was able to get back to Bright to start fall camp, and being around my teammates and family to keep me focused, it made everything a lot easier on me. Through that point in time, I think I really didn't have any other choice other than to grow up, and grow up fast. More than anything, I was hungry to get back on the field and prove that I could will this team to a record we had this year. Obviously we wish we would have played a little better, but after playing at the high level I did the year before, I wanted to prove to people that I was here to play football and that I was serious about it. I was chomping at the bit."
On whether the past two years exceeded his expectations..."It has been beyond my wildest dreams. Me and Mike (Evans) were sitting there the other day talking about how we never thought we would come to A&M for three years and be sophomores with two years left on the table. It's really in both of our best interests to take a step and move on, and we feel like we are ready to compete on the next level. I'm just extremely proud. I'm happy to sit here and say that I would be hard-pressed to find someone who had as much fun and was able to do the things I did in college. It was such a blessing — my college lifestyle and my college career. Everything was really such a blessing. I had my ups and downs, but that's life. I enjoyed every second of Aggieland and College Station treated me excellent. I'm just proud to be an Aggie for the rest of my life."
On the 12th Man..."Unreal. The moment I got to spend in the crowd with everybody after the last home game of my career was really just one of the most special things I have ever done in my life. The way they embraced me and the way the school embraced me even though I might be a little bit of a wildcard or a firecracker. I'll always be an Aggie for the rest of my life. The love that this school has shown me is something I will forever be grateful for."
On working the panel at the Rose Bowl…“It was awesome to get a chance to sit there and be on the panel with Coach Saban, and also have Coach Sumlin doing another deal simultaneously. We’re trying to put A&M on the map as much as we can. I know for me, moving forward, being in the social media and being in the social spotlight, I’ll continue to try and follow in Von Miller’s footsteps in putting the school on the map and making this school somewhere that’s extremely cool and extremely hip and extremely fun to go and really try to take this place to heights that have never been reached before, until we get to the top and are considered one of the top 10 schools in the country football-wise and lifestyle-wise. I’m not going to stop until we try and get there.”
On Saban calling him the most competitive person he’s faced…“I have the utmost respect for Coach Saban, obviously. You see the things they have done with that program and the things he even did before that job, they speak volumes. What he does at those schools really speak for themselves. I mean, he’s got those guys motivated and he does a great job. For him to say that about me is something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. I really am honored to have gone up against Coach Saban twice and have some success. It really is a true testament to our team stepping up in those big moments. I’m really thankful for my teammates being able to help won such a compliment.”
On the three top moments in his career…“The Alabama game and coming back (against Duke) in the top three. I would probably put that as my second favorite — coming back and the welcome back we got back from the Spirit Walk whenever we got back from the plane. The way they welcomed us was unreal.
"The Cotton Bowl last year was number three. After the Heisman, after everything, all the speculation, to go out with the last time with guys like Luke (Joeckel), Sean Porter, and Spencer Nealy, and guys that were really close friends of mine, it was great to send them out the right way against a Big 12 rival.
"And to be honest, one of my favorite memories — I kind of have an 1A and 1B, with the end of the Mississippi State game getting in the stands was really cool — but, my most touched moment, the moment I’ve felt most loved at this school was getting in the limo after the Heisman and seeing the reactions of all the fans around the state, all the fans, the video that went viral. I never really got too emotional until I really saw that much love and how crazy everybody went for me. The thing was, it wasn’t just me that won that award. It was all of Aggieland, all my teammates, all my coaches and all my brothers out there.
"So for Aggieland, it wasn’t Johnny Manziel’s Heisman trophy. It was Texas A&M’s second Heisman trophy — and I’m really truly proud to have my name tied to that forever.”