By early Friday afternoon the Cleveland Browns had sold 2,000 season tickets and the lines were still buzzing. The frenzy to become a Browns season ticket holder began as soon as Cleveland selected Johnny Manziel with the No. 22 pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft on Thursday night.
Yes, Johnny Football is coming to Cleveland, erasing all the late-night comic jokes about the hapless team. The Browns are no longer a punch line. They’re relevant again in the NFL.
There were fans waiting outside the team’s complex in Berea, Ohio to welcome Manziel upon his arrival on Friday afternoon.
The frenzy that Manziel is creating upon his entry into the NFL is similar to another Heisman Trophy winning quarterback who played in the Southeastern Conference a few years ago and tried to make it in Denver and New York – Tim Tebow.
Tebow was a polarizing figure with ardent supporters who thought he deserved a shot to be a starting quarterback in the NFL, though not many NFL pro player personnel people shared that belief. Manziel is also a polarizing figure, not because of his playmaking ability, which in college was off the charts, but because of the celebrity that he has already amassed without taking a single snap in the NFL.
Tebow was traded from Denver to New York and was used as a gadget player by the Jets before being cut in 2013. He went to training camp with New England, but was cut before the season started. He is still a popular figure, but his NFL career is done.
The spotlight is about to shine as bright or brighter on Manziel as it did on Tebow. He said he’s ready for the Tim Tebow treatment.
“I’m used to that. It’s been my life for a while,’’ he said. “The spotlight and expectations and everything that come along with that I was used to it at A&M. It’s bigger than I’m sure I know. I’ll find out. I think I’ve been prepared by the past and that will help me moving forward.’’
Odd that Manziel, who is now being looked upon as Cleveland’s football savior, counts among his friends, LeBron James, who abandoned Cleveland to go to Miami to win NBA championships.
The Manziel story was still swirling around the second day of the NFL draft when teams re-evaluated their draft boards, took a deep breath and jumped back in for the second and third rounds at Radio City Music Hall in New York on Friday night.
Cleveland was a big winner on the first day of the draft. They landed a starting cornerback and a potential franchise quarterback and picked up Buffalo’s first round pick in 2015.
The NFL is always looking for stars and they love it when a quarterback takes that role. Manziel has star quality. Now he has to prove it on the football field. He’ll have a lot of people in Cleveland rooting for him.