By Julian Linden
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Johnny Manziel, College football’s most charismatic and talked about player, is heading to Ohio after the Cleveland Browns traded up to snare the quarterback in the first round of the National Football League draft on Thursday.
Known popularly as ‘Johnny Football’, Manziel was selected by the Browns as the 22nd overall choice after waiting almost three hours to hear his name called out.
He may not have gone number one and he was not even the first quarterback picked on Thursday, but there was no more popular choice than the 21-year-old from Texas A&M University.
Even before NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced his name, the crowd at the Radio City Music Hall was on its feet, chanting “Johnny, Johnny, Johnny”.
“To get that call was a weight off my shoulders,” Manziel said. “It’s a dream come true to be a first round pick in the NFL.
“This is a great day for me, something I’ve dreamed about since I was a little kid.”
For Manziel and his supporters, it was still an agonising wait. Because of his enormous popularity, he was heavily promoted in the lead up to the draft and featured during the broadcast.
He had been tipped as a possible first choice but as each pick came and went, his disappointment was captured on television.
The Browns had emerged as the team most likely to pick him and when they traded up four places with the Philadelphia Eagles to get their man, the news was greeted with a thunderous ovation as he walked out and collected his Cleveland jersey.
“It feels right,” Manziel said. “It feels like where I’m meant to be.”
“It’s great for me to end up at a team where the fans are as passionate about the game as I am.
“I haven’t been to Cleveland that many times but you’ve got to shake things up a bit and for the first time in four and a half months, I now have somewhere to call home.”
Manziel was an instant hit at College, breaking numerous passing records in his rookie season in 2012, and becoming the first freshmen to win the Heisman Trophy.
Standing at slightly under 6ft (1.82m) tall, Manziel is small by modern quarterback standards but he opted to leave college a year before finishing his degree as he feels ready to make the step up to professional football.
A dynamic player on the field and outspoken off it, he said before the draft that any team that overlooked him could pay for their mistake and he was sticking to his line after falling back to 22nd.
“I’m going to pour my heart out for this team and this city and try to be the player I want to be. I want to win, that’s the main thing,” he said.
“I never really put any stock into what people said or where I might go, but obviously there were some teams that passed me up and we’re going to play them in the future.
“There’s no bitterness or grudges… but it does add a little fuel to the fire.”
(Editing by John O’Brien)