Johnny Football has Aggies riding high in SEC


Johnny Football has Aggies riding high in SEC

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) In his Hill Country hometown of Kerrville, Texas, Johnny Football never would have been known by such a specific nickname.

Johnny Manziel could also have been Johnny Baseball, maybe Johnny Golf. After all, his high school coach, Mark Smith, says ``he could have been anything he wanted to be.''

Well, at the moment, the dynamic quarterback for No. 9 Texas A&M is the toast of college football after leading his team to a road upset of then-No. 1 Alabama, the defending national champion that many expected to make another trip to the BCS title game.

All Manziel has done this season is pass for 2,780 yards and 18 touchdowns and run for 1,014 yards and 15 more scores. His team is 8-2 in its first SEC season and, oh yes, Manziel is a freshman - just the second in Bowl Subdivision history with 1,000 yards rushing and 2,000 passing in a season, and he's got all that even before Saturday's game against Sam Houston State.

It's been quite a whirlwind few months for the 19-year-old Manziel, who had to compete for the job in camp and wasn't named Texas A&M's starter until Aug. 15.

His work at A&M is reminiscent of his performance at Kerrville Tivy high school. As a senior there, he threw for 3,609 yards and 45 touchdowns, and added 30 more touchdowns on 1,674 yards rushing.

``It's like watching him back in high school, to be quite honest with you,'' Smith said, calling Manziel a once-in-a-lifetime player. ``The things he's doing, they don't amaze me. Maybe a little surprising it's happening this fast against the SEC competition, but it's some of the same things I've seen from him in his high school years.''

Smith and Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin both say that one of the best things about Manziel is that he's unflappable. A perfect example of his poise came in the first quarter Saturday against Alabama. Manziel nearly fumbled the ball behind the line and the defense was all over him. He evaded the pressure and found Ryan Swope uncovered in the back of the end zone with a 10-yard touchdown pass.

``He's always in control,'' Smith said. ``He doesn't panic and he doesn't get frustrated. He just continues to play.''

Sumlin recruited Manziel while he was the coach at Houston, sending current A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury out to watch him play. When Kingsbury, a former standout QB at Texas Tech, brought Sumlin video of the game, he wondered why he even bothered.

``I saw the video and it was just a highlight tape,'' Sumlin said. ``I didn't have to watch very much of it. There's a couple of guys that when coaches come back and say, `Coach, you need to see this, can we offer this guy?' You watch a few plays and ask, `Why did you even show that to me? Why didn't we offer the guy when you were there?'''

Manziel passed on Houston and several other schools and verbally committed to Oregon. He'd always loved the school and was a big fan of coach Chip Kelly. But as Manziel thought more about playing there, he realized he couldn't be more than 2,000 miles away from his family, Smith said.

Smith helped him navigate that situation, and was impressed by the way he handled it. Manziel agonized over the decision to sign with A&M instead of Oregon, and Smith sat with him when he called Kelly to break the news.

``In the end, the young man made a decision on the things that he valued most and that was his family,'' Smith said. ``That says more about him than any play he could ever make on the football field.''

Sumlin doesn't allow Manziel to speak with the media because he's a freshman. It's a decision that certainly protects him, but also has left his work on the field to do the talking.

And according to those who know him best, he likes that just fine.

``He's kind of taken aback by all the attention,'' said Smith, who talked with Manziel the day after the win over Alabama. ``He just wants to be a football player. He wants to be another guy.''

As with most teenagers, glimpses into his off-the-field life can be found online. He talks about his affinity for country music, chats about upcoming tests and occasionally quotes Bible passages on Twitter. He also takes time for fun; pictures on the Internet show him at a party dressed as Scooby Doo alongside some beautiful and scantily-clad young women.

His Twitter account also hints that he might not be all that fond of being called Johnny Football. When someone mocked him for ``accepting the nickname,'' he fired back: ``How did I accept that nickname? When have you ever seen me use it?''

He also quotes 2007 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow as part of his profile on Twitter.

``I don't know what my future holds, but I do know who holds my future,'' the quote on his page attributed to Tebow reads.

After his redshirt season last year, Manziel entered spring practice as the front-runner to nab the starting job. But a tough spring left the decision up in the air.

``In spring, he was extremely careless with the football,'' Sumlin said. ``He would make a great play and then he would give it to the defense. He's done a lot better job of handling the football and taking care of it and still creating the offense.''

Manziel didn't have a turnover against Alabama's top-ranked defense and hasn't thrown an interception in three games.

As the Aggies continue to win and Manziel's profile has grown, so have the attempts to profit off the catchy moniker. Jason Cook, Texas A&M's vice president for marketing and communications, said the university has sent more than 10 cease-and-desist letters to retailers selling products with the Johnny Football name or Manziel's likeness in the last few weeks.

The proliferation of merchandise prompted Manziel's family to start working with Texas A&M officials to try and trademark Johnny Football.

``No one is looking for profit off the mark,'' Cook said. ``It's to protect eligibility and to protect his name and likeness from being exploited by third parties.''

Another byproduct of Manziel's success is the growing talk about the Heisman Trophy.

``It's like anything else that comes with winning,'' Sumlin said. ``As you win, those types of things come.''

Some have questioned why A&M hasn't embarked on one of those in-your-face Heisman campaigns. The school is certainly promoting Manziel for the award, Cook said, but noted that he's already being talked about across the country.

``Right now, it is wall-to-wall Johnny Manziel,'' Cook said about the media coverage. ``The awareness for us is already there. Our approach is, we need to reach the right people with the right message to make the right decision. Our efforts are targeted directly at Heisman voters and the football writers.''

No freshman has ever won the award, and John David Crow is Texas A&M's only winner, back in 1957.

Cook, who was instrumental in Texas A&M's move from the Big 12 to the SEC, talked often about how the new league would bring increased exposure to the school.

``Our No. 1 decision factor was visibility, and Johnny Manziel is benefiting from that,'' Cook said.

The Aggies can thank Manziel for some visibility, too.

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Why the Redskins should be hoping Tremaine Edmunds falls in their lap

Why the Redskins should be hoping Tremaine Edmunds falls in their lap

NBC Sports Washington’s four-part digital series ‘E-Boyz’ -- chronicling the illustrious past, decorated present and bright future of the Edmunds family -- is NOW LIVE. Check out a new episode daily, leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft. Watch the first episode above and more here.

When the NFL Draft comes around, you'll hear fans and analysts often say, "If Player X makes it to pick No. __, then Team Y should sprint to the podium to pick him."

Well, this Thursday, if Player X is Tremaine Edmunds, the pick is No. 13 and Team Y is the Washington Redskins, the Burgundy and Gold should sprint to the podium only if there's no other option to get there quicker. 

While the 'Skins already have two talented linebackers in Zach Brown and Mason Foster on the roster already, taking the Virginia Tech teenager shouldn't be ruled out. Now, the only problem is that Edmunds has to slide that far in the 2018 draft; the majority of mocks have him going before that spot.

Edmunds is the type of do-it-all LB that is especially valuable in today's NFL. He has the athleticism and ability to fit on the inside or outside, and is just as comfortable rushing the passer as he is in coverage. You know that issue the Redskins have when it comes to covering tight ends, the one that's lasted for like a decade now? Edmunds would help erase it, along with a host of other problems.

"They don't come like him," one NFC scout told about Edmunds. "I don't think there has ever been a linebacker that has had his size and speed."

Redskins fans, go outside and start searching for your four-leaf clovers now. Last year, the franchise got lucky and landed Jonathan Allen. This time around, they're going to need even more of it to secure Edmunds. 


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2018 NFL Mock Draft Ravens Roundup 6.0: The final countdown

2018 NFL Mock Draft Ravens Roundup 6.0: The final countdown

After months and months of talk and a lot of predictions, the 2018 NFL Draft is finally here.

On Thursday, Ozzie Newsome and Co. will enter the draft room prepared for battle. A lot of questions await them and most of them can not be answered until the ten minutes leading up to their pick. 

Even with the additions of Michael CrabtreeJohn Brown and Willie Snead, will the Ravens continue to add to their wide receiver corps? 

Will they trade down and scoop up a tight end or will they address the offensive line and snag Mike McGlinchey? 

All of our questions will be answered in no time, but for now, sit back and enjoy the wild ride that is the first-round of the NFL Draft. 

NBC Sports Washington's Ben Standig (Link) Charley Casserly (Link

— Mike McGlinchey (OL)

With the exit of Ryan Jensen, the Ravens are now in need of an offensive lineman. 

At the combine, McGlinchey put up 24 reps on the bench press, had a 28.5 inch vertical and a 105 inch broad jump. 

"The offense lacks playmakers which is why wide receivers Calvin Ridley and D.J. Moore work," Standing says. "Right tackle also in play. McGlinchey seems to have moved ahead of the other tackle prospects."

ESPN's Mel Kiper (Link) CBS Sports' Chris Trapasso (Link) Sporting News (Link) Rotoworld (Link

— Calvin Ridley (WR)

Ridley is one of the few wideouts in this draft projected to go in the first-round. While his combine performance didn't help his stock, running a 4.43 40-yard dash, recording a 31-inch vertical, a 110-inch broad jump and a 6.88-second 3-cone drill, many are still predicting he lands with the Ravens or somewhere in the first-round. 

"Ridley underwhelmed at the combine, but his college tape shows a player who’s nearly uncoverable," Kiper says. "I’m going to trust the tape in this case and still make him my top-ranked wideout (Maryland’s D.J. Moore is not far behind). Baltimore could also target an offensive tackle at pick No. 16."'s Daniel Jeremiah (Link)

— Hayden Hurst (TE) 

The Ravens haven't addressed their need at tight end in free agency and the reason could be because they're holding out for the draft. 

QB Joe Flacco has a tendency to favor Ravens tight ends and Hayden Hurst out of South Carolina is being considered by many the top TE in this draft. 

The ex-minor league baseball pitcher, who walked on at South Carolina at 21-years old, is being compared to Dallas Clark. "His fearless play demeanor combined with size, strength and athleticism make him a well-rounded prospect with the versatility to line up all over the field," according to his draft profile

Jeremiah, who once was a scout for the Ravens, predicts they will be looking to draft back for Hurst.'s Bucky Brooks (Link) 

— Lamar Jackson (QB) 

It was reported last week that Jackson would be making a visit to the Ravens' facility during the final week of pre-draft visits, and with Joe Flacco nearing the end of his contract, now could be the time to find his successor. Jackson provides support on the ground and in the air, but scouts are concerned about his accuarcy. 

"With Joe Flacco viewed as a potential salary cap casualty in 2019, the Ravens can secure their future QB by grabbing Jackson if he is available at No. 16," Brooks says. "Remember, Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and assistant head coach Greg Roman have experience nurturing athletic quarterbacks into dynamic playmakers (see Michael Vick, Donovan McNabb, Colin Kaepernick), so the Ravens could be the perfect fit for the 2016 Heisman winner."

Bleacher Report (Link

— Mike Gesicki (TE) 

Gesicki is another tight end option for the Ravens. Standing tall at 6' 5", Gesicki ran a 4.54 40-yard dash and recorded a 41.5 vertical jump at the combine. He also ended his time at Penn State as their tight end leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. 

His draft profile describes him as a "pass-catcher who can get open and has the ball skills to win against linebackers and safeties." Scouts are also comparing him to the likes of Jimmy Graham. 

Land of 10 (Link

— Christian Kirk (WR)

Kirk provides another wide receiver option if Ridley is gone at 16, even though his draft profile has him projected in Rounds 2-3. 

The 5-10, 201-pound junior finished with 71 receptions, 919 yards and 10 touchdowns at Texas A&M.

At the combine, Kirk ran a 4.47 40-yard dash, recorded a 35.5 vertical jump and a 7.09 second 3-cone drill. 

His bottom line states, "Kirk is a well-built, mentally tough slot target whose game is built around pace more than explosiveness. His lack of speed and length make him less likely to impact games down the field, but his footwork, route tempo and hands should give him an opportunity to find catches underneath. Kirk's ability to help in the return game is a plus, but the difference between average and good as a receiver could depend on finding the right fit."

CBS Sports' Ryan Wilson (Link)

— D.J. Moore (WR)

As the draft has slowly approached, Maryland's D.J. Moore has risen in the rankings. 

Many pundits are ranking him narrowly behind Alabama's Calvin Ridley as the top WR in the draft. 

The 6'0"  junior ran a 4.42 40-yard dash, a 6.95 3-cone drill and recorded a 39.5 vertical jump. 

"Moore is bigger than former Terrapin wideout Stefon Diggs, but their playing style and athletic ability while at Maryland are similar," states his draft profile.

"Moore doesn't have the height and length teams look for outside and may become a full-time option from the slot. He clearly has the short-area quickness and talent after the catch to handle those duties, but his route-running needs to become more focused and fast to unlock his potential. Teams are high on Moore's potential and believe he has the talent and traits to become a good WR2 in the league."

Moore is being compared to the likes of Pierre Garçon.