Hartman: Sumlin sees Manziel as a winner, leader

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 10, 2014 - 5:49 AM

The former Gophers assistant believes the Texas A&M star became more than just an athlete last year.

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Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel passes the ball during a drill at pro day for NFL football representatives in College Station, Texas, Thursday, March 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Patric Schneider)

Photo: Patric Schneider, ASSOCIATED PRESS - AP

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Kevin Sumlin was a Gophers football assistant from 1993 to ’97 under Jim Wacker and Glen Mason and is now the coach at Texas A&M.

For two years, Sumlin has coached All-America quarterback Johnny Manziel. He was asked to predict how well the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner will perform in the NFL.

“I think so many times, guys have to get in the right place,” Sumlin said. “You know that. It’s hard on young quarterbacks in the NFL, but does he have the potential? Does he have the talent? Yes. His best days are ahead of him.

“He played two years really, started two years in college, so he redshirted as a freshman before I got here and he started the last two seasons. He really improved last year as a quarterback, and the challenge for him was to go from an athlete playing quarterback to a quarterback that’s an athlete. He’s still improving and he knows that. I think he has got the tools and he has the smarts and the work ethic to get it done.”

Sumlin, who married a local woman in the former Charlene Sirois, said every team in the NFL has shown interest in Manziel. He was asked to compare Manziel to another young quarterback such as former Stanford star Andrew Luck, who has had a lot of early success with Indianapolis.

“I don’t know. Andrew is a different kid,” Sumlin said. “A lot bigger guy. It took him a little while, too, and he’s still developing. That league is hard on young quarterbacks right off the bat, but I think [Manziel] has the potential, given the right situation. I think he has the potential to grow. He is an exceptional athlete and an exceptional talent.”

Sumlin also was asked if he had heard anything about the meeting Manziel had with new Vikings coach Mike Zimmer and the supposed red flags that popped up.

“I talked to Mike during the workout, and I haven’t really talked to him after he interviewed [Manziel],” Sumlin said. “I mean, I talked to them during the pro day, before the pro day and during it. But I know Johnny has been on some visits and they did some interviews with him after that, but I haven’t really spoken to him since.”

Manziel hasn’t talked about Minnesota?

“No, we just talk in general,” Sumlin said. “He’s on the tour right now, visiting all kinds of teams. He hasn’t been back here. He’s traveling all over the place doing interviews and teams are flying him in. He’s working out in between and working out at different places just about every day, too.”

Is Manziel a good kid?

“He’s a competitor. The thing that makes him good is he’s hard on himself,” Sumlin said. “He wants to be great. He’s driven by trying to be really, really good. Guys that have that sometimes, you know, as a coach, it’s a little bit easier on you when it comes to football because of their own drive inside of them to try to be the best guy on the field. He has that. He has that to him.”

Is he a leader?

“I think he is,” Sumlin said. “I know when it comes to playing football, he is. I know our team, I think he added a dimension to the team that the game was never over.”

Yes, the Vikings have spent time with Manziel and there are rumors from good sources that they have interest in drafting him, among other quarterbacks, in the first round.

Drafting Manziel or another quarterback might also involve the Vikings making some deals to move their first-round pick, No. 8 overall, like they did in the 2012 draft, when they were able to land USC tackle Matt Kalil fourth overall and then drafted Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith with the 29th pick.

But my guess is their top pick will be the best defensive player left on the board.

Honoring Burns

Dr. Sheldon Burns is the team doctor for the Vikings, Wild, Lynx and Timberwolves and has been doing it forever. Many of the athletes and coaches on those teams also have Burns as their family doctor. He also has been a physician for U.S. Olympic or world championship teams 11 times, and one of his big boosters is Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, who had Burns as the doctor when he was coaching the Olympic men’s basketball team. A big-time committee of famous people in this town have wanted to throw a testimonial dinner honoring Burns, which he has declined.

But Thursday night at St. Paul RiverCentre, the Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians will honor Burns, who has been voted by that organization as the “Family Physician of the Year.”

Another physician of long standing with a local sports team is Dr. Pat Smith, who is in his 30th year as the doctor for the Gophers football team.

In those 30 years, Smith has worked under 10 athletic directors and seven football coaches at the university. Smith started under coach Lou Holtz in 1984 and has been taking care of the team right up through current coach Jerry Kill.

Jottings

• The new Major League Baseball television contract with various networks will bring some $20 million to the Twins and each club, with payments coming in over a period of time. … Last season, the Twins’ revenue-sharing contribution was about $2 million, the lowest since they moved to Target Field.

• In the Twins’ 7-4, 11-inning loss to Oakland on Wednesday, starter Phil Hughes gave up four runs before retiring a batter, marking the first time this season that the Twins had given up a first-inning run. A year ago, the Twins led the league in allowing runs in the first inning with 120. … Infielder Nick Punto, who was with the Twins from 2004 to ’10, has been with St. Louis, Boston, the Dodgers and now with Oakland since leaving the Twins. … Two former Twins, Chili Davis and Chip Hale, are coaches with the A’s. … Joe Mauer, who went 2-for-4 with two walks Wednesday, has three multihit games in the past four games, hitting .438 (7-for-16) with one double and five walks in those four games.

• Former Gophers center Mychal Thompson has three children playing professional sports. His oldest son, Mychel, is a 6-6 swingman in the NBA Development League with the Santa Cruz Warriors. Klay is a 6-7 shooting guard averaging 18.2 points for the Golden State Warriors. His youngest son, Trayce, is a center fielder in the Chicago White Sox organization, hitting .250 through five games at Class AA Birmingham.

 

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40, 8:40 and 9:20 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com

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