- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
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ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The hands stuck out the most.
That is what Detroit Lions cornerback Darius Slay remembers about Johnny Manziel (a.k.a. Johnny Football, a.k.a. the quarterback sensation in Cleveland) before he even took a single NFL snap, which happens Saturday night in Detroit. Manziel is not an overly imposing guy for a quarterback, but then Slay saw the hands he throws the ball with.
And perhaps more than his legs and his moxie and his elusiveness, they caught his attention.
“Biggest hands I’ve seen,” Slay said. “Yeah, you know. Most quarterbacks that [are] 6-foot ain’t got that big of hands like that. I think his hands are bigger than most people I ever saw.
"They are real big. He probably wears a four-inch glove or something."
Slay should remember Manziel well. The then-redshirt freshman quarterback destroyed Mississippi State during Slay's redshirt freshman season, completing 30 of 36 passes for 311 yards and rushing 21 times for 129 yards and two touchdowns, part of a season that led to a Heisman Trophy and the quarterback turning into a household name.
Slay had four tackles and a pass breakup in what was a 38-13 Texas A&M trouncing.
"I ain’t never heard of him until that year," Slay said. "But he is very talented. Got a good gift."
Part of that gift is making plays when everything looks lost for his team. It is what makes him both an unpredictable quarterback and an incredibly gifted one.
So what does Slay consider the biggest challenge facing him? He offered something that might be the best advice in dealing with the rookie quarterback. Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and head coach Jim Caldwell, when asked about Manziel this week, said they are focused on the Lions right now.
"Just keeping him in the pocket," Slay said. "He gets outside the pocket, he’s a dangerous guy. Just keep him in the pocket and play ball. Make him make the tough throws."
College is different than the NFL, though, and one of the more interesting things for Manziel will be what happens when he does end up outside of the pocket.