E.J. Manuel leaves Florida State as one of the school's best quarterbacks of all-time. He has the program's highest completion percentage (66.8) and is third on the school's career passing list at 7,736 yards, behind just Chris Weinke and Chris Rix.
Manuel was a bridge from rocky times to better times at Florida State. And now he's trying to build a bridge to the NFL.
He is 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds, a desirable set of numbers for the prototype NFL quarterback. And Manuel has shown plenty on film, including his mobility, accuracy and leadership (he won 25 of 31 starts).
Manuel was one of the first players to accept a Senior Bowl invite in November, and he joins other quarterbacks like N.C. State's Mike Glennon Oklahoma's Landry Jones, Arkansas' Tyler Wilson, Syracuse's Ryan Nassib and Zac Dysert of Miami (Ohio).
The quarterback class of 2013 isn't filled with elite talent — there are certainly no Andrew Lucks or Robert Griffins. There aren't quarterbacks that will be taken high in the first round, but the NFL if anything is quarterback-needy. And it's a chance for Manuel to make an impression.
"That's a game that I have been watching since I was a little kid," Manuel said. "To be a part of it, have an opportunity to play in it, raise my stock in the NFL and things like that, it will be huge for me."
Manuel is one of three former Seminoles participating in the Senior Bowl, joining defensive tackle Everett Dawkins and kicker Dustin Hopkins. The Senior Bowl begins on Monday with player drills and interviews and concludes with the game in Mobile, Ala., on Jan. 26.
Three more Florida State standouts accepted invites to participate in Saturday's East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg: wide receiver Rodney Smith, defensive tackle Anthony McCloud, and linebacker Nick Moody.
Long snapper Dax Dallenbach will play in the Raycom College Football All-Star Classic in Montgomery, Ala., on Saturday. Fullback Lonnie Pryor will take part in the Texas vs. The Nation game on Feb. 2. Reserve offensive lineman Daniel Glauser already played in the Casino Del Sol All-Star Game on Jan. 11 in Tucson, Ariz.
Manuel threw for nearly 4.5 miles at Florida State, but he will be scrutinized by NFL teams next week. One former NFL scout that follows the Southeast closely said that teams are split in their view of Manuel.
"There are a lot of positives there," the former scout said. "But there are a lot of negatives. He's not pinpoint accurate. Is he able to get through all his reads (quickly)? He misses some throws.
"I think he has more than enough arm strength. He has the athletic ability to break out of the pocket and go for the first down. There are a lot of physical tools there."
The other Florida State players offer the NFL potential, too.
Dawkins was a three-year starter and an effective run-stopper. Hopkins made 88 field goals, the most in Football Bowl Subdivision history. Smith is 6-foot-5, reliable and caught a pass in 39 straight games. McCloud continued to improve and at 320 pounds is imposing. And Moody has made highlight-reel tackles in his career both as a safety and linebacker.
They leave Florida State with a conference title and Orange Bowl victory in their senior years. And the knowledge that they helped put the Florida State football program back on track.
The next few months will be grueling — filled with senior showcases, the NFL Combine, Pro Day and individual workouts. But now it's time for them to improve their draft resumes.
"Tallahassee was a good spot for me, very welcoming," Hopkins said. "It's time to open up a new chapter."