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Manuel impresses on Pro Day

EJ Manuel celebrated his 23rd birthday in fine fashion.

EJ Manuel looked threw a variety of different passes at Pro Day.

With his family in attendance along with dozens of NFL scouts and assistant coaches, the former Florida State quarterback looked sharp while throwing a variety of passes Tuesday during FSU's annual Pro Day.

Manuel declined to participate in any other drills, preferring to stand on his 4.65 40-yard dash time at the NFL combine, but attracted a strong crowd as he threw short and deep, in the pocket and on the run to a variety of former Seminole teammates.

“The biggest thing, I wanted to go out and compete and I did that,” Manuel said. “Scouts all know we can play. They've seen tons of tape on us. So you are what you are on film. I think the biggest thing you can do, don't shy away from competition. Don't shy away from being up against other talented guys in the draft.”

Manuel has been drawing steady attention since earning Most Outstanding Player honors at the Senior Bowl and posting a strong performance at the combine last month.

He said he's met with about 25 teams since the Senior Bowl – “all the teams I know need a quarterback” – and has five or six private workouts already scheduled.

On Tuesday, Manuel set out to show off some new mechanics that he'd been fine-tuning with his training coach, Ken Mastrole of the Mastrole Passing Academy. Chief among them was his weight transfer with the ball and being sure not to throw off his back foot.

“I've always had a strong arm, but when you put your hips and the right kind of stuff in to it, the ball comes out great,” Manuel said. “And I feel like I did that today. That's really what I wanted show the scouts I've been working on.”

FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher watched Manuel throw Tuesday and said that he believes scouts came away impressed.

“I don't think he hurt himself here one bit," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said.

“I thought he did really well,” Fisher said. “Thought he threw the ball on the run very well, accurate on all his throws. The deep balls (had) good air and good touch on it. The intermediate – those flag throws, those corner routes, I thought were very good. Led guys well, his footwork, balance and body control was very good.”

“I don't think he hurt himself here one bit. He just keeps climbing the charts in the things he's doing, and I'm very happy for him.”

Manuel had reason to be happy, too. In addition to a strong performance at Pro Day, Manuel received a gift he'd been coveting for a while – an invitation to attend the NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

He said he'll definitely attend. The draft begins April 25.

“When I got the invite, I was about to cry, really, because that was probably my biggest goal,” Manuel said. “I know there's a lot being said about me going into it, but I never listened to it.”

Manuel admitted Tuesday that, while he tries not to pay close attention, he knows that he's had plenty of detractors during his career, both during his time at FSU and now that he's got new sets of nit-picking eyeballs breaking down his game.

But Manuel doesn't mind using criticism as motivation.

“The nay-saying things just put a chip on my shoulder,” he said. “So it's been great.”

And it's not as if Manuel hasn't drawn plenty of praise in recent weeks, either. His 4.65 time in the 40-yard dash at the combine was the second-fastest among quarterbacks, and NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock ranks Manuel as the second-best quarterback in the draft, behind only West Virginia's Geno Smith.

Manuel most often projects as a second-round pick, but this year's quarterback class is considered to be pretty closely grouped together and if there's a run on quarterbacks – as there was in 2011 when former teammate Christian Ponder was selected 12th overall by the Vikings – then Manuel could potentially slip into the first round.

Besides, Manuel knows he doesn't need to make all 32 NFL teams fall in love with him.

“As long as one team loves me,” he said, “I'll be happy.”

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