Q: Has it sunk in during this whirlwind 12 or 13 hours just what has happened to you?
A: Not completely. It is reality. I understand that. I am just so happy and so proud to be a Buffalo Bill now and to be able to be a part of this franchise. I am really looking forward to meeting my teammates very soon.
Q: You had a huge smile when you walked out onto the field (for a photo opportunity). Can you talk about that?
A: Yeah, it is a dream come true. This is something I worked towards my entire football career. The decisions you make, the things you have to do when nobody is watching and the hard work you put in—this is where it all pays off. It pays off right here. There is a lot of hard work to be done yet.
Q: Did you ever think that you would be not just the first, but the only quarterback selected in the first round?
A: Well to me it was more so that there only needs to be one team to fall in love with you. Whether it was the Buffalo Bills, Philadelphia Eagles or the Cleveland Browns—I knew one of those teams was going to take a quarterback. I did not know how soon. I am just extremely elated 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.
Q: You have had a chance to chat with Jim Kelly. What has he told you and how has he filled you in on what to expect?
A: Yeah, I met Mr. Kelly two years ago. Florida St. recruited his nephew Chad. So that first time I was star struck to meet him. To be here and join this fraternity of quarterbacks here for the Buffalo Bills, to meet him, get his cell phone number and stay in contact with him means a lot. The fact that he has reached out. C.J. Spiller has reached out. Stevie Johnson has already reached out. Talked to those guys and they are very excited about me joining the team.
Q: There are some people that say you are a developmental quarterback. Do you see yourself that way?
A: I expect to 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. 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.
Q: What did last night mean for your family?
A: It meant a lot. To have my mom there in good health. She has been working for the past four weeks and gotten back into her normal everyday thing that she does. To go out across that stage and see her when I came back from it just meant a lot to me. She has made a lot of sacrifices just as my dad has, too. This is not just an EJ one, it is a whole family one.
Q: How has dealing with the adversity with your mom’s situation changed your perspective on football and maybe life?
A: Right. 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 them to have some type of feeling to always remember that day, that night. To be picked in the first round meant a lot to me. To have my whole family there meant even more.
Q: Can you talk about the phone call you got from the Bills and how that went?
A: Earlier I got a call around the third or fourth pick. I was thinking,’ OK, hey I am getting drafted pretty early.’ But it was the wrong number. Someone was trying to get in touch with Dion Jordan. Obviously I was a little saddened, but nonetheless when I got a call later on from Mr. Nix it was just a breath of relief and a breath of fresh air knowing that I have a new home and a new team to play with. I cannot even tell you the emotions that came over me.
Q: Can you talk about the relationship you have developed with Bruce Smith through your dad?
A: It is crazy how God works. I met Bruce when I was a kid, a small kid. I remember looking up staring at him. I think he was still playing at the time. He looks like he is still in football shape now, but the fact that I am 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.
Q: What has Bruce told you and filled you in on about Buffalo?
A: Well he said this is a great town. He said the fans love their football team and when they are winning this is the best place to be. Best place to be in the world. Obviously this team and this franchise, the fans all want this to be back on the positive note. Bruce just said go in there and learn. Just continue to work hard like I have always done.
Q: What did you talk about with the Commissioner on stage? You kind of locked in an embrace for an extended period of time.
A: Oh yeah. I held tight. I told him I was going to come in for the bear hug too before that and I did so. He just told me to make him proud. He said that he is extremely happy and excited for me. Just told me to continue to work hard, continue to represent myself, my family and the franchise I am a part of now in the positive way that I have done. Just go out there and be happy.
Q: What family do you have here today? And would you call this experience a dream?
A: Most definitely. I have my father here. My agent, Josh (Hare), here. My dad Erik Manuel. For him to join me, I know he is probably more excited than I am. My dad is my biggest fan and my best friend. He has been with me through thick and thin when I was a kid-through college, the good and the bad. He is always going to be there for me so I am extremely happy to have him here with me.
Q: How do you carry your leadership abilities over to the NFL?
A: I think you just have to earn the trust and respect of your teammates. I feel like that is what I did at Florida St. I did not do a lot of talking. Obviously I intermingled with my teammates. I think that is the best thing about being a leader. You have to know the guys you are 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 will still be kind of standoffish when you ask them to do things or you tell them to do things. I think that is the best way to go about it. Just earn that respect by producing and having a great work ethic.
Q: What do you say to the critics who say you are not worthy of a first round pick?
A: I am extremely happy I was picked with the 16th pick. I think it only takes one team to fall in love with you and I am happy the Buffalo Bills fell in love with me.
Q: When in this process did you get a sense the Bills were a real possibility for you?
A: I cannot really say an exact time. I had a really good feeling when I came up and met with Coach Marrone and Coach Hackett. With those guys, Mr. Nix and Mr. Whaley we had great conversations. I think I picked up the offense that he taught me. I think we met for four or five hours. I think I picked it up fairly quickly. I think they see I fit best into what they want to do.
Q: What do you like to do away from the field?
A: I am a very simple man. I can just sit back and watch a movie on TV. Tallahassee is not a big city where there is a lot going on so a little bit of Xbox if I have time. A lot of my time is spent working out, watching film. We treat ourselves as professionals in college at Florida St. So I think assimilating to professional football will not be too hard.
Q: What about this offense makes you seem to fit so well?
A: I think I contribute that coach can call multiple plays. He can do the vertical game, the play action game or zone read. Whatever he wants to do. He knows that he can do that with me and the type of quarterback that I am. First things first, you have to learn the offense and earn the respect of your teammates.
Q: Do you think there is still some stereotyping that goes on when it comes to African American quarterbacks?
A: I do not know. You are always going to get certain stereotypes or certain characteristics about your play that always seems similar to somebody that looks just like you. That is not up to me. I am happy to be a Buffalo Bill now.
Q: Have you explored Buffalo yet? Been to any signature restaurants or met any fans?
A: Yeah, I definitely met some fans. I did a couple of radio shows this morning and I do not think they even knew I was coming through there. They just happened to recognize my face walking through. Took some pictures, signed some autographs, mini-helmets and things like that. I have not had a chance to go around the city yet. I saw, I think, Lake Erie this morning. It was a clear day outside. It is good to get around the city.
Q: How ready do you feel as a quarterback to step in?
A: I think that is just a matter of getting into the offense and getting into the film room. I know the game and the speed is different. I know there is going to be a lot of adjusting to do, but I played big time football at Florida St. I played against NFL caliber guys week-in and week-out so I do not think it will be too much of an adjustment.
Q: How do you describe yourself as a quarterback and as a player?
A: I think I am a winner. 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 is the main thing I want to do, instill the trust in my teammates and to me coaches.
Q: Is there pressure there for people expecting you to take this franchise to the next level?
A: I think there is pressure whenever you are the quarterback coming into a situation like this. Obviously there are expectations. I expect greatness for myself. When I went to Florida St. it was the same way. Now moving forward to the next step, the highest level of football I am ready to go.
Q: Are the any particular areas of your game you feel you need to work on?
A: I think the first thing is just to get used to this offense. It is definitely a new offense. I learned a little bit of it a few weeks ago when I was meeting with coach. Obviously he did not teach me everything, but I think the best way to do that is to get in the film room and work hard.
Q: The experts, like Todd McShay, say you have slow eyes. What are slow eyes?
A: (Laughs) Yeah, I have no idea what slow eyes are. I do not know, they are moving pretty quick now so I do not know. (Laughs)