On Thursday night, the Cleveland Browns became the most buzzed-about team in the NFL. And while their first pick in the draft, Justin Gilbert, may be an excellent NFL player, he certainly didn't cause much of a stir when he was drafted at No. 8.
However, when the Browns took the most polarizing player in recent college football history, 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, aka Johnny Football, with the 22nd pick of the NFL draft, the Internet erupted reacting to the new face of the Browns franchise.
On Friday, he and Gilbert were introduced for the first time at a press conference. Let's break down the highlights.
We'll start with the Browns' official Twitter account, which documented several Johnny Football sound bytes.
Manziel: "I know that moving forward I need to put in the time to be the best player I can be."— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) May 9, 2014
Manziel on 'Johnny Football' being a burden: "I'm Johnny Manziel. I know who I am."— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) May 9, 2014
Manziel discussed what is sure to be one of this preseason's big quarterback battles as he squares off against Brian Hoyer for the starting gig:
Manziel on Brian Hoyer: "I want a guy who's competitive and I wouldn't expect anything less."— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) May 9, 2014
The signal-caller also talked about some of the scouting knocks on him from the run-up to the draft:
Manziel on playing in the cold weather: "Just play with the weather at hand and deal with it."— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) May 9, 2014
Manziel: "I feel like I can play way bigger than 5'11. I don't think you have to be a certain height to be successful."— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) May 9, 2014
Manziel: "I feel like the bigger the stage, the more energy and the more passionate I am."— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) May 9, 2014
As you might imagine, the major talking points about Manziel were addressed in this press conference, and he gave all the right answers. He seems fully aware that the scrutiny is only going to increase in the NFL, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com:
#Browns Manziel said he's expecting the scrutiny of his every move to multiply in the NFL: "I'm going into it expecting madness.''— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) May 9, 2014
#Browns Manziel said he plans to tone down Johnny Football: "Really there's no time for it now.'' Said totally committed to football.— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) May 9, 2014
Still, folks in the room seemed very interested in Manziel's "celebrity appeal." Heck, he was even asked if he could get another former Cleveland athlete to return, per Cabot:
#Browns Manziel on if he'll try to lure LeBron James back to Cleveland: (smiling) "I don't think I can do that.''— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) May 9, 2014
That question is the Johnny Football spectacle in a nutshell. And a reason why Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report was likely enjoying this presser so much:
This Manziel presser is hilarious.— mike freeman (@mikefreemanNFL) May 9, 2014
Let's be honest—even though Manziel (smartly) said he wants to put "Johnny Football" behind him, people are still obsessed with that persona. He was even asked about his signature celebration, per Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports:
Asked abt the "cashing out" gesture, Manziel explains that started w teammate Ben Malena as a handshake of sorts & took off w Drake.— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) May 9, 2014
And as for any rumors about a homeless man advocating for his selection, well, he addressed that too, via Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com:
Johnny Manziel says no, he didn't hear about the homeless guy telling owner Jimmy Haslam to take him, but... "I'm glad he's lobbying for me"— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) May 9, 2014
Imagine for a moment you've just been drafted by an NFL team, fulfilling a lifelong dream, and the day after these are the type of bizarre questions you are being asked. It would be a little jarring, right?
Of course, Manziel is not only accustomed to this sort of attention, he's brought much of it on himself. But the important takeaway from this press conference is his very smart answer that he feels it is important to separate himself completely from the Johnny Football image that has been crafted in the media.
Does that mean Manziel will never show up at a basketball game, keep hanging with his BFF Drake or go out to the club? No, of course not. He's a young man who has the right to enjoy his life as he sees fit. But Manziel seems ready to be more well-known for who he is on the field at this point, not off of it.
He had all of the right answers on Friday (the more cynical among us might suggest he's had a bit of coaching in that regard, but if a camera was constantly shoved in your face, you would too). He seems ready to play in Cleveland and for the rigors of the NFL game. He also appears willing to put in the work needed to compete for a starting job.
That might bore some people, but his answers were likely music to the ears of his new coaches and teammates. Let the circus swirl—Manziel is ready to get to work.