The Florida State quarterback—who was picked 16th by the Bills—was the only signal-caller taken in the first round of last week's NFL draft.
DAN PATRICK:How surprised were you to be the first quarterback taken?
EJ MANUEL: I really wasn't surprised. When I saw the Bills trade down from No. 8 to No. 16, I thought they were going to take a quarterback and I was hoping it was me.
DP:Did you tell your friends not to call you during the first round?
EM: I didn't have to. Everybody understood the situation. It's funny, at the third pick someone called my hotline phone looking for [Oregon defensive end] Dion [Jordan]. I got excited because I heard it ring.
DP:You thought the call was for you?
EM: Someone said, "Congratulations, buddy." I was like, "Thanks, I appreciate it. Who is this?" They said, "Is this Dion?" I said, "No, sir," and he hung up. That was kind of rough.
DP:How was the mood in the greenroom?
EM: It was good. I'm sure my parents were more anxious than I was. I knew if [the Bills] didn't go quarterback, there was a chance I'd go the next day.
DP:How painful was sitting through the first round for Geno Smith?
EM: Teams that we thought were going to take quarterbacks early—like Philly, the Browns, the Jets—didn't. That's just the craziness of the draft. I feel for Geno. It could be either one of us [who fell].
DP:If you weren't picked in the first round, would you have stayed for Day 2 of the draft?
EM: I would have. I would have seen it as just another night in New York City. I'd rather be in New York than at the house in Virginia Beach. I wanted to walk across that stage and shake Mr. Goodell's hand too.
DP:I heard an analyst say you had slow eyes on draft night. Is that true?
EM:[Laughs.] I don't know. I haven't heard that one yet. Hopefully my eyes will quicken up.
DP:Which quarterbacks have you been compared with?
EM: I compare myself to Ben Roethlisberger and Colin Kaepernick. Jon Gruden compared me to Daunte Culpepper. I've been compared to numerous guys who have throwing and running ability.
DP:Who'd you grow up rooting for?
EM: I've always been a big fan of Donovan McNabb. I've also looked up to Charlie Ward, who was a big mentor to me at Florida State.
DP:Do you expect to start in Buffalo?
EM: I'm expecting to go in and compete. I expect to learn from [offensive coordinator Nathaniel] Hackett and [coach Doug] Marrone, and quarterbacks Kevin Kolb and Tarvaris Jackson.
DP:Your mom underwent breast cancer treatment last year and is now cancer-free. I hope she enjoyed being at the draft.
EM: She appreciates everyone sending her their best wishes. I know she was extremely excited to be there. She missed a few games because of treatment, but she was there last night.
"A six-year, $108 million deal for a guy with one playoff win? You [judge] a quarterback on wins and losses. I thought he would get a deal ... but to have him be the fifth-highest-paid quarterback is wowing to me."
—DONOVAN MCNABB, former Eagles QB, on the contract the Cowboys gave Tony Romo
TNT analyst Steve Kerr shared this insight on his former coach Phil Jackson: "My sense is that he has great interest in getting back in the league, but the travel and the health concerns and just the wear and tear of the NBA season as a coach would keep him from doing that." ... West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen told me the Rams don't have to worry about their first-round pick, 5'8", 174-pound Mountaineers receiver Tavon Austin, being undersized: "Toughest guy I've ever been around. He's got a strange combination of being a really fast player who can stop and start as [quickly] as anyone." ... NFL Network host Rich Eisen explained the biggest challenge of covering the draft: "You gotta find the right balance of hydration. You can't cramp up, but you can't go. It's nonstop." ... I asked running back Marcus Lattimore, the 49ers' fourth-round pick, if he would tell former South Carolina teammate Jadeveon Clowney to play carefully next season to avoid injury. "You really can't stop a freak accident," Lattimore said. "As long as he plays hard, he's not going to get hurt. He's a guy who loves football."
MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (PATRICK)
MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (MANUEL)
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (KERR)
PATRICK MCDERMOTT/GETTY IMAGES (HOLGORSEN)
ARAYA DIAZ/WIREIMAGE (EISEN)
BILL FRAKES/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (LATTIMORE)