While Johnny Manziel has earned the respect of his Hamilton Tiger-Cats teammates in the early going, there is one area in which he has not yet lived up to expectations: his willingness to perform on stage.
While there is no formal “rookie show” – hazing and initiation have been largely excised from all levels of sports – first-year Ticat players are being encouraged to sing a song or tell a joke before the special teams meeting every evening during training camp at McMaster University. Quarterback Vernon Adams, for example, belted out a tune earlier this week while defensive lineman Lynden Trail did a spot-on impression of an unnamed assistant coach.
Veteran centre Mike Filer says it’s all in fun.
“It’s anything – you have to entertain the vets, he said. “My first year in Calgary, we had to stand up and sing in front of everyone and if you can’t sing, you have to tell a joke and if you tell a bad joke, you get booed off the stage.”
But Manziel has yet to take his turn – pretty much the only “complaint” levelled at the former Heisman trophy winner through the first 10 days of training camp. Hamilton veterans have been impressed with Manziel’s approach and receiver Luke Tasker says he’s been good in meetings while also performing well on the field.
“The wrong way to come into a team is to have a sense of entitlement, that’s the last thing that a new player should have – or any teammate,” Tasker said. “Johnny doesn’t have a sense of entitlement, he’s a guy trying to learn the offence like a lot of players are.”
Tasker said while Manziel’s signing on the opening day of camp certainly caused a stir, he dismisses the notion that Manziel has been a distraction of any kind.
“Think about all the people on this team who had really good college careers or played in the NFL,” Tasker said. “He has a unique level of notoriety but he’s a football player like the rest of us.”
Filer says he’s spent time talking with Manziel about the nuances of the CFL game, particularly when it comes to protections and blitz pick up. Again, nothing but positive reviews – at least until he tries his hand at performing.
“It goes back to being part of the locker room – even if you suck, you bought into it and did your bit. Filer said. “I’m sure Johnny will get up there at some point. He’s been a great sport.”