Johnny Manziel was back in his element Thursday during his pro day. He was bobbing his head to music by Drake blaring over speakers at the McFerrin Indoor Center during 64 throws as he tried to impress 75 NFL personnel, which included eight general managers and head coaches.
The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner completed 61 of 64 passes. A few of his 50- to 60-yard laser-like passes earned "oohs" and "aahs" from the crowd that included former president George H.W. Bush and wife Barbara. The 45-minute workout ended with a perfect long pass to former teammate Mike Evans, who stretched out to made the grab. Manziel raced down to body-slam his former roommate, then George Whitfield, who trains Manziel and orchestrated the workout, rubbed his star pupil's hair.
"I don't think you can name another person who has gone through college and been through the things I have, and I am well-prepared for that," Manziel said. "I have had to talk at a lot of places. I have had to do things a lot of people in my position wouldn't have had to do, but I think it directly prepares me for what's going on in the future."
Manziel managed what's believed to be another first for a pro day as he worked out in helmet and shoulder pads.
"He did a good job," Houston Texans head coach Bill O'Brien said. "He looked prepared. George has done a good job with him. He had a good day."
Manziel asked Whitfield before the NFL combine what teams would respect at his pro day, which led to their decision for him to wear a helmet and shoulder pads.
"I told him they respect challenges," Whitfield said. "You get to create your own test. You can make it a spelling bee, or you can make it a calculus exam. That's the unique thing about this. You go for an interview, but you get to do all the talking and all the presenting, and you get to format it the way you want to."
Whitfield and Manziel opted to make it as challenging as possible as Manziel threw from the pocket and sprinted out to both sides, tackling every throw possible.
"I was very impressed," Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson said. "He played under center on all the throws. He showed movement throws. He showed throw-back throws. He threw the ball all over the field, so I was very impressed. He was accurate and showed plenty of velocity on the throws as well.
"I really like to see the guys play under center, especially if they haven't done too much of it in their college tape. I thought he was fantastic getting away. He showed great quickness separating away from center, good balance at the top. He threw the ball extremely well."
Whitfield also used a long broom on some plays to try and distract Manziel.
"It was different," Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said. "It was a different workout. This one was a little different in how it was choreographed. People like that or they don't like that ... I don't know."
Minnesota, which has the No. 8 overall pick, is one of the teams in need of a quarterback. ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. had Manziel going to Minnesota on his last updated board. Kiper wasn't at the workout but said afterward that Houston or Jacksonville should draft Manziel.
Gil Brandt, senior analyst for NFL.com and former vice president of player personnel for the Cowboys, attended the workout and said Manziel remains his top-rated prospect.
Zimmer said the Vikings will probably hold a workout with Manziel before the NFL draft on May 8-10.
"Something a little less choreographed," he said. "The huddles and the different things and the music ... the sideshow stuff ... it was a sideshow."
Jacksonville head coach Gus Bradley said Manziel did a great job of demonstrating throws to the backs, deep comebacks and posts.
"You saw all the combination of routes," he said. "I think it's a part of it. I think you circle back and watch all the games he participated in. You watch them and then you add the combine and you add this to that piece of the puzzle."
Jacksonville, which drafts third, also needs a quarterback. The organization provided live coverage of Manziel's workout on Jaguars.com. The NFL Network broadcast live and ESPN also had live reports from one of the most celebrated pro days.
Cleveland and Chicago were the only NFL teams not represented, but Cleveland has scheduled an individual workout with Manziel, who also had seven or eight interviews after Thursday's workout, according to agent Erik Burkhardt.
"I love the state of Texas," Manziel said of remaining in the state to play in the NFL. "I've been here my entire life. It's really out of my control. All I can do is come out here and try to put on the best show as possible, going to these meetings and trying to show these guys a side of me that a lot of people didn't get to see."
It was a crisp workout.
Manziel threw six passes at a time, then took a break. He had to frequently use a towel to wipe the sweat from his face because he was wearing a helmet.
"I thought it was good," Manziel said. "Obviously, I was going for perfection, so a couple hit the ground -- one that was on me, another one was a little high. I could have gotten it down for him a little bit. Overall, I thought it was good. I give a lot of credit to the six guys who went out there and ran their hearts out for me and went after some balls and really, really helped me out. More than anything for me, I had a blast doing it."
Wide receivers Derel Walker and Travis Labhart from last year's team also caught balls along with tight end Nehemiah Hicks and running back Ben Malena. The only receiver used not on A&M's team last season was Kyle Bolton, who graduated from Baker two years ago and now trains in San Diego at Whitfield's Academy. He runs a 4.3 40-yard dash, said Whitfield, who also supplied the center.
Manziel operated almost exclusively out of the shotgun at A&M in two seasons, using four- and five-wide receiver sets.
"Like I said, guys who have primarily played in the shotgun in their college days, you'd like to see them transition away from center to playing under center," Wilson said. "Watch their drops. I haven't seen him play. I saw him at the combine where he didn't throw, so this is my first time to really see him throw in person. I just wanted to see his arm strength. He has plenty of arm strength to play, no question about that."
"I am extremely dedicated and committed to this process moving forward. And I want to go into this and show these teams who I am as a person and who I am in the football facilities that not everybody here gets to see. I am just trying show those guys who I am and how I am as a person and have fun with it. It's a great time in your life. You only get to go through this once. There is only one time you get to go into the NFL draft." -- Johnny Manziel.
"We took a lot of time trying to lay out that script. Every throw in that deal is part of NFL offenses and concepts. So from the footwork to the reads to the eyes. The thing he's been challenged so much about is people aren't really willing to give him is he can be a systematic player. Everybody thinks he has to work off script and he's a jazz artist. He can read sheet music. We tried to iron out some Mozart out here and hopefully people ears caught it." -- George Whitfield, Johnny Manziel's trainer
"I'm in a position where I can play a game for a couple of years or hopefully a lot of years that in the grand scheme of things it's a game ... come out here and play with a great group of guys. I had great teammates and great coaches. It's the greatest game on the face of the earth. I'm enjoying everything and I know that at the end of the day, things are going to work out the way they're supposed to, just the way it worked out that I was supposed to be here." -- Johnny Manziel
"He's been a great player for a long time. He can do it all. That's impressive. Most guys come out in T-shirts and you don't play in T-shirts, so coming out made a statement throwing it in pads. Accurate. Great mobility. Then, he has great video. There are a lot of things to like about him." -- Tampa Bay head coach Lovie Smith
"We're three rounds in and the dialogue is all football based and we just felt a big movement along the sideline. Then all of a sudden he turned around and said, 'That's the President.' Then we all snapped over there. That's pretty special when that happens. I'm glad he has that no flinch mentality because I don't know how I would have been if I'm playing my heart out here and a President rolls up in the audience and sits right behind you. That's not like an easy thing." -- George Whitfield, Johnny Manziel's trainer