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Fran Tarkenton says Johnny Manziel is closest he’s seen to himself

Johnny Manziel

FILE - In this Oct. 6, 2012, file photo, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel throws a short pass in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Mississippi in Oxford, Miss. A record 98 underclassmen, including Manziel, have made themselves eligible for the NFL draft in May. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)


Fran Tarkenton is a Johnny Football fan.

The former quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants overcame his smaller stature to make the Hall of Fame after 18 seasons in the NFL. Tarkenton’s ability to improvise and make plays on the run were what made him a special player.

Tarkenton sees many of those same traits in Johnny Manziel, the Texas A&M quarterback that could be a Top 5 pick in May’s NFL Draft.

“Nobody really played like I played. This kid plays like I did more than anybody else,” Tarkenton said, via Jim Corbett of USA Today.

Manziel has thrown for 7,820 yards with 63 touchdowns and 22 interceptions over the last two seasons at Texas A&M. He checked in just shy of six feet tall at the NFL combine, measuring in at 5-foot-11 and 3/4 - shorter than Tarkenton (6-foot) but taller than Seattle’s Russell Wilson (5-foot-10 and 5/8).

Tarkenton downplayed any thought Manziel’s size would hinder him at the NFL level. He feels Manziel has “an instinctive vision” and proved his ability in two games against Alabama, But Tarkenton added Manziel won’t be able to run as much and will have to learn how to adjust in the NFL.

Tarkenton did say teams will have to make sure they understand the off-field exploits of Manziel and be comfortable with his prior actions. But, Tarkenton added, Manziel has “franchise qualities.”

“He’s the closest thing I’ve seen to myself,” Tarkenton said. “Russell Wilson has some of it. But Manziel has those similarities even more so than Russell.

“Manziel is a quarterback savant.”