Tampa Bay Buccaneers
FSU's Manuel ready for Buffalo QB challenge
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -
Having Bruce Smith for a godfather and with Jim Kelly already offering his support, quarterback EJ Manuel has well-established connections to the Bills' Hall-of-Fame past.
On Friday, Manuel began looking ahead to a hopeful future. Arriving in Buffalo a day after being selected with the 16th pick in the NFL draft, he accepted the challenge of helping usher in a new and improved chapter for what's been a win-starved franchise.
“I think there is always pressure whenever you're the quarterback coming into a situation like this. Obviously, there's a lot of expectations,” Manuel said. “But I expect greatness for myself. When I went to Florida State, it was the same way. So now, moving forward to the next step, the highest level of football, I'm ready to go.”
Manuel was the only quarterback selected in the first round of the draft. At 6-foot-4, he's a strong-armed and mobile player.
He joins a team that is rebuilding under rookie head coach Doug Marrone. And Manuel's being given the opportunity to immediately compete with newly signed six-year veteran Kevin Kolb for a starting job that's been unsettled since Kelly retired following the 1996 season.
“I think I'm a winner,” said Manuel, who played a role in the Seminoles winning four consecutive bowl games. “To me, the biggest thing is to come in and earn the respect of my teammates. I think the best way to do that is not do a lot of talking. Just come in and try to learn as fast as possible.”
“I think I'm as hopeful as every fan in Buffalo,” said Kelly, who attended Manuel's inaugural news conference. “You get tired of people always referring back to when I played. I don't want to do that. I want to refer to somebody that has taken us to the next level.”
With a little patience, Kelly believes Manuel can be that player.
“I just hope EJ's the guy that he is,” he said. “I'll put it this way, we're starting out on the right foot.”
Then there's Smith, who has known Manuel since he was born. Smith and Manuel's father, Erik, remain friends after growing up together in the Virginia Beach, Va., area.
Little did anyone realize EJ would wind up following in his godfather's footsteps to Buffalo.
“It's crazy,” EJ Manuel said. “I met Bruce when I was a small kid. I remember looking up and staring at him.”
“I'm optimistic,” Smith said, during a telephone conference call. “I think with the right components, the right system, the right head coach, the right quarterback coach, the right teammates, that he can be the one who's the face of this franchise.”