Football / Sports

New Brown Johnny Manziel talks business, not style

BEREA, Ohio -- Johnny Manziel doesn't have a split personality.

As he sat politely and patiently answering questions, only occasionally revealing a Texas twang, the former Texas A&M quarterback sent his "Johnny Football" alter ego into another room Friday during an introductory news conference with new Browns teammate Justin Gilbert, a former Oklahoma State cornerback.

Manziel, the first quarterback under 6 feet tall to be taken in the first round of the NFL Draft in more than 50 years, talked about business more than allowing his other side, which he called a product of the media, to appear.

Now, his business is professional football, and he eagerly spoke about what he wants to do.

"I think I'm Johnny Manziel. Johnny Football is what I am in the media and what is out there," he said. "I accept it and I'm very accepting of it. At the same time, I know who I am. I'm Johnny Manziel from Kerrville, Texas. I don't let that get to me too much or let all that weigh me down or ever make me lose sleep at night."

It doesn't sound as if Johnny Football concerns his new coach either.

"When he gets inside the building �" we talked about it at length when we visited with him �" what accompanies him isn't really him," Browns coach Mike Pettine said. "He's a competitor. He's a great teammate. He loves to get in and he's passionate about football.

"I don't think that (celebrity) comes into the building. We looked at it as an opportunity to add a tremendous competitor to this roster. What follows him for us was not a big factor in the decision."

The legendary competitive streak did matter. During minicamp in late April, Pettine said he wasn't overly fond of the idea of starting a rookie quarterback, yet every indication points to Manziel getting the opportunity to wrest the job away from presumed starter Brian Hoyer, a Cleveland native who is still rehabbing a surgically repaired knee.

However, Manziel showed no sign of cockiness and doesn't presume to be able to jog into FirstEnergy Stadium and rock the place.

"There's a gap that needs to be bridged, the learning curve that I have to adapt to," he said. "So, obviously, with the quarterbacks we have here �" I, Brian, Vince Young and the guys that are here �" I feel like I can learn a lot from them and they can teach me a lot."

His self-awareness revealed itself as he continued to answer questions thoughtfully and without hesitance.

Manziel agreed that he has some things to work on in football, including his willingness to run first.

"I can continue to get better in the pocket and feel more comfortable," he said. "There are times where I need to play within the confines, going forward, of this offense and take what's really given. There are times I've bailed out a little early."

But with the drawbacks come the intangibles that can't be coached �" that competitiveness and the overwhelming desire to win. Pettine and General Manager Ray Farmer refer to it as the "It Factor." They also look for their players to "play like a Brown," meaning with passion and toughness. Manziel said that he possesses those qualities.

"I just don't handle losing very well," Manziel said. "The way I was taught to play the game from high school, the first time I ever touched the football, you play the game hard, you play it passionate and you bust your tail every day to try and get better."

That is what Farmer saw, along with eye-popping statistics for a two-year starter that included Manziel's 7,820 passing yards and 2,160 rushing yards with 93 touchdowns via his arm or legs, that put him at the top of the Browns' draft board.

"We definitely liked his ability to perform and make plays," Farmer said. "We liked a guy that brought all the things when we talk about 'play like a Brown.' He was passionate, he was relentless, he played fearless, he was competitive and we added a guy to our roster we thought could help us win."

Detractors will talk about the height, or lack thereof. Until recently, quarterbacks of Manziel's stature wouldn't get much more than a cursory look by NFL coaching staffs. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees began to change that. Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks' Russell Wilson continue the evolution of the position. Stature doesn't matter to Manziel.

"You can measure height, but you can't really measure heart," he said.

(c)2014 Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

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