After two spectacular seasons, Johnny Manziel is leaving college to enter the NFL draft, the Texas A&M QB told CBS Wednesday.
"After long discussions with my family, friends, teammates, and coaches, I have decided to make myself available for the 2014 NFL Draft," Manziel said. "The decision was such a tough one for me because of how much I wanted to go back and be with all those guys that I love playing with, and to work with Coach (Kevin) Sumlin and Coach (Jake Spavital) Spav and be part of a program that's continuing to grow. But I felt like this is what's best for me now.
"I feel very relieved. It's a weight off my shoulders. I'm ready to become a professional and dedicate myself to making my dream a reality of becoming the best quarterback I can be."
The 21-year-old Manziel is projected by most NFL draft observers to be a first-round pick and potentially a Top 5 selection with several franchises with big needs at quarterback near the top of the draft (Texans, Jaguars, Browns, Raiders and Vikings).
The mercurial QB led Texas A&M to 20 wins in his two seasons as the Aggies starting QB, and in 2012, he became the first freshman to ever win the Heisman Trophy, while setting the SEC single-season total offense record when he accounted for 5,116 yards. This fall, there was no "sophomore jinx" for Manziel, who showed improved accuracy and arm strength while opting to run less. His completion percentage improved from 68 percent to 70 percent while his yards per attempt also jumped from 8.54 to 9.59. He finished his A&M career with 93 career TDs and just 22 INTs even though he played in the nation's toughest conference. Manziel's most impressive performance may have come last September in the supposed Game of the Year, where many claimed Nick Saban, with 10 months of prep time would be ready with answers after the dynamic QB sparked an upset Bama in Tuscaloosa. This time around, the Tide beat the Aggies, but Manziel's amassed a whopping 562 yards of offense, 464 through the air and 98 on the ground as his team rolled up 628 yards, the most the Crimson Tide had surrendered in more than 100 years.
Manziel's ability to make plays off-script is one of the things that make him such a rare talent--and also a big box office draw. His free-wheeling style and penchant for extending plays has coaches saying it's as good as they've ever seen. One long-time former NFL coordinator told CBS last month Manziel should be the first pick of the draft.
Manziel's size--6-0, 203 pounds--will give some NFL personnel folks some concern as will his well-chronicled social life, but his competitiveness and ability to thrive under pressure are off the charts. Aggies football coaches also rave about his football smarts and his ability to see--or hear--something one time and grasp it.
Manziel plans on re-locating to San Diego for the next few months to train with private quarterbacks coach George Whitfield to get ready for the NFL Combine and personal workouts with teams.