Pro day notes: Criticism fuels Manuel
March, 19, 2013
By David M. Hale | ESPN.com
John David Mercer/USA TODAY SportsEJ Manuel's workout at Florida State's pro day Tuesday was on point and helped the quarterback secure an invitation to April's NFL draft.TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- EJ Manuel was eager to wrap up his throws at Florida State's pro day -- not just because he had a host of NFL scouts carefully critiquing each motion, but because he had plans for when it was all over. Today is also Manuel's birthday.
"I just had to knock this out, and now I can go celebrate," he said.
After solid showings at the Senior Bowl and the NFL combine, Manuel already believed he had plenty to celebrate before throwing for scouts today. He has worked his way into the mix of top quarterbacks available, met with more than two dozen teams, and earned an invite to the NFL draft in New York.
"When I got the invite, I was about to cry, really," Manuel said. "That was probably my biggest goal. I know there was a lot being said about me going into it, but I never listened to it. I continue to work hard, did well at the Senior Bowl and the combine, and the naysayers have pushed me to have a bigger chip on my shoulder."
Manuel insists he's not bitter about any criticism along the way, but he said it has pushed him to work harder.
He certainly appeared to help his cause today. Jimbo Fisher watched carefully and said Manuel was accurate on all of his throws and looked sharp in the process.
"Footwork, balance and body control was very good. No wasted motion and was very tight and quick," Fisher said. "You saw the athleticism and body quickness."
Manuel said he was pleased with the performance, but added that most evaluators have already seen all they need from him on film. The recent workouts have been more a test of his mentality.
"The biggest thing is I wanted to go out there and compete and I think I did that. Scouts all know we can play," he said. "They've seen tons of tape, and you are what you are on film. The biggest thing you can do is don't shy away from competition, up against other great talent in the draft. Guys were in the Senior Bowl rated higher than me, and they're not rated higher than me anymore."
Thompson doesn't run: Chris Thompson has been pleased with his rehab from an ACL tear less than five months ago, but he still wasn't quite sure today that he was ready to run in front of scouts.
His plan had been to run the 40-yard dash along with vertical jump and bench press tests, but by this morning, he'd reconsidered. Wet field conditions and unease over the strength of his knee convinced him it wasn't worth the risk.
Thompson said he informed several scouts, and all agreed he'd made the right choice.
"They all said it was a good decision, and that made me feel so much better about it," Thompson said. "Now I've just got to wait until a later date to give myself a little more time to get in better shape and get my explosiveness back and try to perform in front of the scouts again before the draft."
Jenkins still recovering: It's been nearly seven months since Brandon Jenkins' season ended when he broke a bone in his foot in Florida State's opening game, and he's still not back to full strength.
"My left leg is still not like my right leg, but I'm still trying to work to get there," Jenkins said.
After mixed reviews at the NFL scouting combine last month, he hoped to flash a bit more burst during today's workouts. With a wet field and the foot still healing, it wasn't quite the results he was looking for, but there was improvement.
"It was a big difference," Jenkins said. "I wasn't the same person at the combine. It was a lot of pressure, and I was a little anxious. But I came out here and I did a little showing, I think."
A year ago, Jenkins projected as a first- or second-round pick. Now, he could slide to the middle rounds. Still, Jenkins said he doesn't think the injury has hurt him dramatically and remains optimistic he can improve his stock in private workouts before the draft.
"Everybody has their opinions," he said. "I have a whole lot of film, and I was going to get better if I played my senior year, but everything happens for a reason."
Tough interviews: While the on-field work plays a major role in where players are drafted, the off-field interviews remain a big part of the process, and FSU's former players ran the gauntlet at last month's combine and again today.
Cornerback Xavier Rhodes managed to impress some NFL executives by donning a suit for his interviews at the combine.
"It's a multimillion dollar interview, so you've got to go in there like a professional," Rhodes said. "I don't play games about it."
Greg Reid had a bit more to prove in his interviews. After several off-field incidents led to his dismissal from the program last August, teams were quick to question his behavior.
"I don't think I have character issues," Reid said. "I made some dumb decisions, but I'm past all that now. I had to change my ways a lot, and I think I learned my lesson. And if they don't understand that, I told them, 'If I'm not on my team, you most likely will see me on your scouting reports.' "
Of course, it might have been Bjoern Werner who received the most interesting interview question. The native of Germany was taken by surprise when the first request from one interviewer was for him to utter the famous Arnold Schwarzenegger line from "Predator": "Get to the chopper."
"I did it, and they said it wasn't good," Werner joked. "So I had to do it one more time."
Extra points: In addition to Manuel, Werner, Rhodes and Menelik Watson were invited to the draft in New York. ... Defensive end Cornellius Carradine didn't participate in any running or agility drills as he continues to rehab a torn ACL, but he wowed scouts by bench pressing 225 pounds a whopping 31 times. ... Reid and linebacker Nick Moody both managed strong runs in the 40-yard dash but were forced to bow out of second attempts due to minor injuries. Reid had some tightness in his hamstring, while Moody pulled up with a groin strain.