NEW YORK (AP) — EJ Manuel told himself he wasn’t going to cry.
But then he heard his name called and thought about all his family has gone through to get to this moment, when the Florida State star became the first quarterback picked in this year’s NFL draft.
His mother, Jackie, is in remission from breast cancer, he said. She’s still undergoing radiation therapy but is back at work.
“Her hair is growing back; she’s starting to look like herself,” Manuel said. “I’m just ecstatic right now.”
The Buffalo Bills took Manuel with the 16th pick — the only quarterback selected in the first round. One of the first people to hug Manuel was West Virginia’s Geno Smith, a popular prediction to be the first QB drafted. Instead, Smith wasn’t taken in the first round at all.
The two have known each other since 10th grade.
“That says a lot about Geno’s character,” Manuel said.
This was the latest the first QB has gone since 2000, when the Jets took Chad Pennington 18th. Since then, a quarterback had been selected with the first overall pick 10 times in 12 years.
Over that span, an average of nearly three QBs have been taken in the first round each year.
Now Manuel will be the standard-bearer for what was considered a weak class for quarterbacks.
“I love having a chip on my shoulder,” he said.