CANTON, Ohio — As the crowd of football fans bowed their heads before Browns owner Jimmy Haslam spoke, a priest delivering the invocation asked for a special blessing for new quarterback Johnny Manziel.
He may need more than divine intervention.
“Father, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a prayer like that,” Haslam told the clergy man. “I’m not sure what Brian Hoyer thought of that either.”
Speaking for the first time since the Browns landed Manziel, Texas A&M’s playmaking quarterback in the NFL draft, Haslam made it clear that Johnny Football will have to earn everything he gets and won’t jump Brian Hoyer on the depth chart just because he has a Heisman Trophy, celebrity friends or fame.
“He’s not the starter,” Haslam said of Manziel.
Haslam spoke Monday to a packed room of 500 — most of them hardcore Cleveland fans, who wanted to know how the Browns’ boss felt the team did in the three-day draft.
Cleveland’s biggest move was picking the polarizing Manziel with the No. 22 overall pick in the first round. His selection has brought a buzz to the Browns and sparked sales of season tickets and No. 2 jerseys.
And while Haslam is thrilled at the pick, he said the Browns — starting with first-year coach Mike Pettine — have told Manziel not to expect any preferential treatment.
“We were very frank with him that ‘You’re the backup quarterback. This is a hardworking, blue-collar town. This isn’t Hollywood,’” Haslam said.
“We want you to come in here, work hard and work as hard as anybody on the team. He’s not the starter. Brian Hoyer is our starting quarterback. Johnny is the backup.”
Haslam called Manziel “ultra-competitive” and feels the 21-year-old will come to training camp with the right attitude.
“I think you’ll find a guy that’s really hard-working, a serious guy that doesn’t want to be a three-year-in-the-league flash-and-out who makes a lot of money on endorsements,” Haslam said.
“He’s a football player. He was a little upset he went 22. He was a little upset he was the second quarterback picked. I think he comes in with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder and wants to show the people he’s about winning games and not about all the other ‘stuff,’ if you will.”