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EJ says he's ready to compete

"I expect to come in and compete," EJ Manuel told reporters today. (James P. McCoy/Buffalo News)

By Jerry Sullivan

EJ Manuel (and his father confirms that it's EJ without the periods) met with the Buffalo media Friday afternoon in the press room at One Bills Drive. As we'd been told, he has a presence. Manuel seemed confident and assured, yet respectful and humble. He referred to his superiors as "mister." His father, Erik, was in the room. So was Jim Kelly, the Bills' Hall of Fame quarterback. Bruce Smith, a lifelong friend of Erik Manuel and EJ's godfather, was expected to speak with the media by conference call later.

Some of the high points of Manuel's 18-minute session with the press:

So, has it sunk in yet?

"Not completely. It is reality, I understand that. I'm just so happy and proud to be a Buffalo Bill now, and to be a part of this franchise. I'm looking forward to meeting my teammates real soon. It's a dream come true. This is something I've worked toward my entire football career. The decisions you make, the things you have to do when nobody is watching, the hard work you put in, this is where it all pays off right here. There's a lot of hard work left to be done."

You said at the combine you felt you were the best quarterback in the draft class

"There only needs to be one team that falls in love with you. Whether it was the Bills, the Eagles, the Browns, I knew one of those teams were going to take a quarterback. I didn't know how soon. But I'm extremely elated that I was taken at 16. When I saw the Bills trade back from eight to 16, I knew they would probably take a quarterback. When my phone rang, I was extremely excited."

What did Jim Kelly tell you about playing in Buffalo?

"I met Mr. Kelly two years ago. Florida State was recruiting his nephew, Chad. I was star-struck to meet him. And to be here and join this fraternity of quarterbacks with the Buffalo Bills, to meet him and get his cell phone number and stay in contract with him, means a lot to  me. C.J. Spiller has reached out. Stevie Johnson has reached out already. I talked to those guys. They're very excited about me joining the team."

Do you feel you have a good chance to play right away?

"I expect to come in come in and compete. I expect to come in and learn. To me, the biggest thing is to come in and earn the respect of my teammates. The best way to do that is not do a lot of talking and try to learn as fast as possible."

What it meant to your family to be drafted high. 

"It means a lot, to have my mom (who is recovering from cancer) there in good health. She's gotten back into her normal every-day thing the last four weeks. To walk across the stage and see her, that meant a lot to me. She's made a lot of sacrifices, as my dad has. This isn't just an EJ win, it's a whole family win."

"I chose to go to New York, not just for myself but for my family. I wanted my family to enjoy the draft process. I wanted to them have some type of feeling, to always remember that day, that night.

"I have a new home, a new team to play with. I can't even tell you the emotions that came over me."

Bruce Smith is your godfather, did it almost seemed destined you would come here?

"Yeah, it's crazy how God works. I met Bruce when I was a small kid. I remember looking up, staring at him. I think he was still playing at the time. He looks like he's still in football shape now. The fact that I'm playing for a team he had such a great legacy with means a lot to me. Bruce has been pivotal in my process, going from high school to college and now college to the pros."

"He said this is a great town. He said the fans love their football team, and when they're winning, he said it's the best place to be, the best place in the world." 

What you told the commissioner. It was a long hug.

"Yeah, I held tight, too. I told him I was going to come in for the bear hug before that. I did so. He just told me to make 'em proud. He said he was excited for me and to continue to work hard, to continue to represent myself and my family, and the franchise I'm a part of now, in the positive way I've done. Go out and make it happen."

On your dad. 

"I know he's probably more excited than I am. My dad's my biggest fan, my best friend. He's been with me through thick and thin, when I was a kid, in college, through the good and bad."

How will your leadership qualities carry over to the NFL?

"I think you've just got to earn the trust and respect of your teammates. I feel I did that at Florida State. I didn't do a lot of talking. I intermingled with my teammates. I think that's the most important thing about being a leader. You have to know they guys you're leading. In order for those guys to trust and follow you, they have to know you. You have to be like a brother to them. Otherwise, they'll still be kind of standoffish when you tell them to do things."

When did you feel this was a possibility?

"I can't say an exact time. I had a really good feeling. I came up and met with Coach Marrone, Coach Hackett, Mr. Nix and Mr. Whaley. I picked up the offense fairly quickly. I think we met for four or five hours. I think they felt I fit best into what they like to do."

How he spent his spare time in college. 

"A lot of my time was spent working out, watching film. We treated ourselves as professionals in college at Florida State. So assimilating to professional football won't be too hard."

How does this offense fit you?

"I think I contribute the fact that a coach can call multiple plays. He can use the vertical game, the play action game, zone read, whatever he wants to do. He knows he can do that with the tpe of quarterback I am."

You recently told a Philadelphia paper that African-American quarterbacks get put in the same category. Do you think there's still stereotyping of black quarterbacks?

"I don't know. I mean, you're always going to get certain stereotypes or certain characteristics about your play that always seem similar to someone who looks like you. That's not up to me. I'm happy to be a Buffalo Bill now."

Adjusting to the NFL game.

"The speed is different. I think it'll be a lot of adjustments. But I played a lot of big-time football at Florida State. I played against NFL-caliber guys week in and week out. So I don't think it'll be too much of an adjustment."

How do you describe yourself as a quarterback?

"I think I'm a winner. I have a leadership about me. I have a competitive edge about me, and I think it rubs off on my teammates. I love to have great players around me, players who feel they can trust me. That's the main thing.I want to instill that trust in my teammates and my coaches."

Will you feel the pressure of having to revive this franchise?

"I think there's always pressure when you're the quarterback coming into a situation like this. There's obviously a lot of expectation, but I expect greatness from myself. When I went to Florida State, it was the same way.  Now I'm moving to the next step, the highest level of football. So I'm ready to go."

Todd McShay said you have "slow eyes." What are slow eyes?

Manuel laughed.

"Yeah. I have no idea what slow eyes are. They're moving pretty quick now, so ... I don't know."


2013 draft | EJ Manuel
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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |