This montage with QB guru George Whitfield Jr. in San Diego seems to be Manziel's online response -- on Valentine's Day, no less. There's a large shot straight out of "The Karate Kid" of Manziel taking a blindfolded drop on a beach, along with a photo of Manziel -- chin in hand, pen at the ready, laser focus in his eyes -- contemplating a pass diagram on a dry-erase board. "When I decided to make this decision to turn professional, it was time to really put my college years in the past," Manziel said at the combine. "This is a job now. There's guys' families, coaches' families and jobs and all kinds of things on the line. For me it's nothing; it won't be a hard thing to kick or a hard deal to not do. I'm extremely focused on whatever organization I'll be at and really pouring my heart out trying to be football 24/7 with that team."
The montage is a powerful message and the perfect visual complement to the leaked news that Manziel scored an impressive 32 on his Wonderlic test. So much so that you barely notice in the Instagram photo that the play Johnny Football is studying so intently has already been fully diagrammed -- seemingly just like his Instagram image campaign.
Posted: March 13
Manziel celebrated his multiyear deal with Nike -- a big step in his virtual vindication tour -- by plastering the brand on his Instagram feed seven times during the month of March, starting with a giant swoosh splashed across an action shot of him scrambling in college. "Just Do It," he wrote in the photo caption. "So incredibly thankful to be a part of the Nike family. Watching the greats wear this equipment as a kid and to now be a part of this unbelievable company still blows my mind #StriveForGreatness."
Established franchise QBs can make from $6 million to $12 million a year in endorsements, and the fact that a major corporation like Nike vetted Manziel and was willing to invest millions in the Johnny Football brand might help convince NFL teams to do the same. Manziel is certainly not the first quarterback to manipulate his image through sponsorships and ad campaigns. By using a series of lighthearted and self-deprecating commercials, Peyton Manning has helped soften the public perception that he's a boring, supercilious robot. For Manziel, there could be an even bigger payoff. Because of the rookie salary cap and depending on where Manziel is drafted, he could potentially make more money off the field in the early part of his career than on it.
"The next issue will be his commitment as a football player, and that's why there's always a risk with taking pre-draft rookie marketing deals," says Steinberg. "The team will be looking to see if he's totally committed. The owner will watch that. The coaches will watch that. The other players will watch that. He's in a learning process and there will be interceptions and struggles, and if, at the same time, he's on every billboard, fairly or unfairly, it puts the question in people's minds: Is he more concerned with being a matinee idol or with being our quarterback?"
Posted: March 26