BEREA, Ohio (AP) – Johnny Manziel expects life in the NFL to be even crazier than college.
Selected in the first round of the draft by the Cleveland Browns, Manziel was introduced Friday to a soundtrack of whirring cameras as he took the initial steps of his pro career. Humble and self-assured, Manziel, who raised Texas A&M’s profile with his playmaking ability and “Johnny Football” persona, said he’s entering the league expecting the spotlight to be brighter.
“I’m going in expecting madness,” he said.
Manziel says he’s learned from past mistakes and the 21-year-old vowed to earn the respect of his new Cleveland teammates, some of whom may have their doubts about him.
His arrival in Cleveland has already triggered “Manzelmania” as the Browns have been overwhelmed with sales of season tickets in the hours since they drafted the former Heisman Trophy winner with the No. 22 overall pick on Thursday night. There were fans waiting outside the team’s headquarters to welcome Manziel when he arrived shortly before noon.
“It means a lot to me obviously, getting a lot of support already,” Manziel said of the buzz he’s created. “But there’s work that needs to be done. There’s things that need to be done. I’m very excited, very eager to be here and really get things rolling.”
Manziel was joined at his introductory news conference by fellow first-round pick Justin Gilbert, the No. 8 overall pick. A cornerback from Oklahoma State, Gilbert said he rolled down his car window and screamed when he heard Manziel was taken by the Browns.
Gilbert was asked if he kept tabs on Manziel’s college career.
“Who didn’t follow him?” the soft-spoken Gilbert said.
Manziel, who posed for photos holding his new No. 2 jersey, insists he’s not burdened by all the attention he receives, and said he’s confident he can separate his celebrity and football lives.
“I think I’m Johnny Manziel,” he said. “Johnny Football is what I am in the media. I accept it, but I know who I am. I’m Johnny Manziel. I don’t let that weigh me down.”
Manziel doesn’t expect to receive any preferential treatment with the Browns. He wasn’t surprised to hear starter Brian Hoyer said “bring it on” when he was told he will be competing with Manziel in training camp.
Manziel acknowledged he has a lot to learn, and that his sole focus is on helping the Browns end years of futility.
“I want to win,” he said. “That’s the main thing for me. I don’t handle losing very well.”
He’s gotten better at handling the constant swirl around him. After he was drafted following a nearly three-hour wait, Manziel went out in New York and celebrated with his family and friends, which reportedly included rapper Drake and Cavaliers All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving. There are photos circulating on the Internet of Manziel drinking from a large bottle of champagne.
“I’m 21 years old,” he said when asked about the bubbly.