The San Diego Padres threw a Hail Mary on the final day of the Major League Baseball draft Saturday by taking Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel – listed as a shortstop for Texas A&M, even though he never played for the Aggies – in the 28th round.
”It was kind of, `Why not?”’ Padres general manager Josh Byrnes said before the Padres hosted the Washington Nationals.
”Best athlete on the board,” Mike Dee, the Padres’ president and CEO, wrote on Twitter.
Manziel likely won’t ever play an inning of professional baseball, but he’s not the first NFL quarterback who heard their name called during the MLB draft.
Sure, Manziel was a terrific baseball player at Tivy High School in Kerrville, Texas, but he hasn’t played the sport since so he could focus on football. It looks as though he might have called a successful audible after being the 22nd overall pick in the NFL draft last month.
”We’ll see what happens with his football career,” Padres closer Huston Street said. ”He’s potentially got a baseball one.”
Here are a few quarterbacks who turned down the baseball diamond for the football gridiron:
A two-sport star in high school in California, Elway was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 18th round in 1979. He chose to go to Stanford, where he continued to play baseball and football. The Yankees drafted the slugging outfielder, who was also a hard-throwing pitcher, in the second round in 1981 – 52nd overall, six spots ahead of Tony Gwynn – and he played for their short-season affiliate in Oneonta. Elway was selected No. 1 overall in the NFL draft by Baltimore in 1983, but unhappy with the team, he threatened the Colts that he would turn to baseball if they didn’t trade him. Baltimore gave in and dealt him to Denver, where Elway forged a Hall of Fame career and won two Super Bowl rings.
Marino was a right-handed pitcher and quarterback at Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh, and drew interest for his skills in both sports. The Royals drafted him in the fourth round of the 1979 draft – yes, they took Elway and Marino in the same draft – but Marino opted to play football at the University of Pittsburgh. Good play call. Marino became one of the game’s greatest quarterbacks, going in the first round to the Miami Dolphins in 1983, setting dozens of passing records and being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005.
Yep, the three-time Super Bowl champion and two-time MVP was a pretty good baseball player, too. So good, that he was drafted out of high school in the 18th round by the Montreal Expos in 1995 – as a catcher. He ended up not signing with the Expos and headed to the University of Michigan, where he worked his way up the depth chart from seventh to starter. He wasn’t particularly highly touted coming out of college, going to New England in the sixth round. But, we all know what happened next.
He was such an amazing athlete that the Colorado Rockies drafted him as an outfielder out of Virginia Tech in the 30th round of the 2000 baseball draft – even though he hadn’t played the sport since the eighth grade. Vick was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 NFL draft and became one of the game’s most dynamic players with the Atlanta Falcons. After rejuvenating his career following a nearly two-year jail term for his role in a dogfighting ring, the soon-to-be 34-year-old Vick is with the New York Jets and competing with Geno Smith for the starting job.
The quarterback of the Super Bowl-champion Seattle Seahawks was a 41st-rounder by Baltimore out of high school in 2007, but opted to go to North Carolina State. He was a fourth-round pick of Colorado in 2010 and played in the Rockies’ system as a second baseman. Wilson, who later transferred to Wisconsin, told the Rockies in January 2012 that he wanted to pursue an NFL career, and was a third-round choice by Seattle that April. He wasn’t quite done with baseball yet, though. In December 2013, he was acquired by the Texas Rangers in the Rule 5 draft. A few weeks after winning the Super Bowl, Wilson attended Rangers spring training and participated in infield drills.
The speedy, athletic and tattooed signal-caller of the San Francisco 49ers had a blazing fastball in high school. He threw two no-hitters in his senior season and was a two-time all-state pitcher in California. Kaepernick turned down a few offers to play college baseball and instead chose a football scholarship at Nevada. He still was drafted in the 43rd round in 2009 by the Cubs, but continued his college football career, was a second-round pick by the 49ers in 2011 and helped lead them to the Super Bowl in his second season.
The Dallas Cowboys’ backup quarterback once had a brilliant baseball future after being a second-round pick of the Yankees in 2002. A 6-foot-4 fireballing right-hander, Weeden was traded to the Dodgers in 2004 and spent the 2006 season in the Royals organization, but was never able to advance beyond Class A. He was 19-26 with a 5.02 ERA in five minor league seasons before hanging up his baseball cleats and heading to Oklahoma State to play quarterback. He was a first-round pick of the Browns in 2012, but the 30-year-old QB was cut in March – two months before Cleveland drafted Manziel. Weeden signed a two-year deal with the Cowboys.
The Angels really wanted Locker, drafting the strong, speedy outfielder and right-handed pitcher in the 40th round out of high school in 2006 and again in the 10th round in 2009 out of the University of Washington. Locker actually signed with the Angels the second time, but stayed off the diamond and played another season for the Huskies’ football team. He was the eighth overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft, but injuries have plagued his first few seasons.
A few other QBs who were once baseball draft picks: Chris Weinke (2nd round in 1990, Blue Jays); Daunte Culpepper (26th in 1995, Yankees); Matt Cassel (36th in 2004, Athletics); Joe Theisman (39th in 1971, Twins); and Mark Brunell (44th in 1992, Braves).