ORCHARD PARK — He has a presence, both in size — 6-3 1/2, 237 pounds — and attitude ... a confident, quiet sense of leadership.
General manager Buddy Nix referenced those very traits after the Bills took Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel in Thursday night’s first round of the NFL Draft.
His selection excited most of the Buffalo faithful and Bills’ Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly and future teammates Stevie Johnson and C.J. Spiller contacted Manuel shortly after he was selected.
He was the only QB chosen in the opening round and early Friday afternoon, Manuel met with the media and talked about being chosen before the more heralded Geno Smith, Matt Barkley and Ryan Nassib.
“There only needs to be one team to fall in love with you. Whether it was the Bills, Eagles or Browns,” he said. “I knew one of those teams was going to take a quarterback (but) I didn’t know how soon.
“I’m just extremely elated I was taken at 16. When I saw the Bills trade back from eight, I knew they would probably take a quarterback and when my phone rang I was extremely excited.”
Besides, Manuel isn’t unfamiliar with Buffalo.
His father, Erik, is friends with another Bills’ Hall of Famer, defensive end Bruce Smith.
“I met Bruce when I was a small kid,” he recalled. “I remember looking up staring at him .... he was still playing at the time (and) he looks like he’s still in football shape now. The fact that I’m playing for the team he had such a great legacy with means a lot to me. Bruce has been very pivotal in my process going from high school to college and now from college to the pros.
“He said this is a great town ... the fans love their football team. When they’re winning this is the best place to be in the world. Obviously, the fans all want this (team) to be back on the positive note.”
BESIDES his physical skills, the Bills’ coaches and administration were high on Manuel’s leadership ability.
“I think you just have to earn the trust and respect of your teammates,” he said. “ I feel that’s what I did at Florida St. I didn’t do a lot of talking. Obviously, I intermingled with my teammates ... I think that’s the best thing about being a leader. You have to know the guys you’re leading.
“In order for those guys to really trust and follow you they have to know you. You have to really be like a brother to them otherwise they’ll still be kind of standoffish when you ask them to do things or you tell them to do things. I think that’s the best way to go about it ... just earn that respect by producing and having a great work ethic.”
His greatest skill as a player?
“I think I’m a winner,” Manuel said. “I have a leadership (sense) about me and I have a competitive edge about me that I think helps rub off onto my teammates. I love to have great players around me. I love to have guys who feel that they can trust me. That’s the main thing I want to do, instill trust in my teammates and my coaches.
“There’s pressure whenever you’re the quarterback coming into a situation like this. Obviously there are expectations (but) I expect greatness for myself.”
(Chuck Pollock, the Times Herald sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com)