The NFL Combine allows each team to conduct interviews with 60 draft-eligible prospects. It’s a club’s chance to pinpoint guys they like, a chance to get unanswered questions addressed … and maybe a chance to grab a headline or two? Surely that was the Dallas Cowboys’ motivation in opting to designate Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel as one of its interviewees … right? Manziel, who measured in at 5-11 and ¾ inches tall but tells the assembled media in Indianapolis that he feels like like he “plays 10-feet tall,’’ is an attention-getter. He’s also a candidate to be the No. 1 overall pick and surely will go in the top 10 slots on the May NFL Draft. Dallas drafts 16th.
So why bother?
“He’s a great football player and someone I admire a great deal,” coach Jason Garrett says. “If you’re a fan of football and you watch Texas A&M play, he’s something else. He’s done an amazing job in a short period of time during his career for that program. He’s really fun to watch.’’ The Cowboys are listening to Manziel (who earlier this month very craftily expressed his desire to play for the Cowboys … or the Texans … or the Browns). They are also seeing if Manziel measures up, because understand, “5-11 and ¾’’ is almost as far from “ideal’’ as it is from “10-feet tall.’’
And they are interested in his “hand-span’’ (a large 9 and 7/8 inches), and his shuttle time, and his Wonderlic score and any other measurable they can stuff into the Manziel file. That includes his 40-yard dash time, which came in at a 4.68 seconds (officially). That’s “fast,’’ but in a business where we split every hair, it’s not “little-guy’’ fast. As an example, it’s in the same range of Carolina’s young standout QB Cam Newton – but Newton is 6-5 and 260 lbs, almost a half-a-foot and 53 pounds bigger than “Johnny Football.’’
But those measurements don’t mean he can’t play at the next level. That’s where the intangible stuff comes into play, stuff that comes up in the interview process. “I’m one of the most competitive people on the face of this earth,’’ Manziel told everybody at the combine. “I play the game with heart and passion that is unrivaled.’’ I’m sure he’s telling that to Cowboys officials … and I’m sure Cowboys fans hope all of this is an exercise in evaluation and not showmanship.