Florida State traditionally shows recruits a good time, as it has been one of their M.O.s the past 30 years. For E.J., it was no different. He says, "Man, I am tired. That's how I know I had a great time this weekend. We got in a little late on Saturday around 11:30. We went right to the hotel, changed and ate. We went right to the stadium after that. I did get a chance to see the 3-D presentation they had for us, and that was a real cool thing to see. I'd have to say it was unexpected seeing the highlights and hits and stuff like that. That was one of the best things I have seen through this process."
When asked about some of the aspects that stood out during the visit, E.J. mentioned, "It was just awesome. I'd rate it an 11 out of 10. Great overall visit for me and my family. Between the game, the fans, meeting my future teammates and talking to Coach Bowden and Fisher, there was nothing I didn't like. I had an excellent time with my host, Myron Rolle. He is a really great guy and I love that cat. We're very alike in the way we handle football and life. He is a very mature person, and I feel I am the same way. We've kept in touch and he showed me a great, great time. Everywhere I went, someone knew who I was. I am a people person so I didn't mind that at all. I signed some hats and stuff, and people showed me a lot of love when I was there."
The game was a disappointment for the fans of FSU, but for E.J. it was a good experience to see his future offense in person for the first time. "We (FSU) had some chances to win the game. I really thought we had the game won. It stings a little because that's one of our rivals. It's a game we should have won. But we just have to go out there next week and continue to improve. We run almost the same offense at Bayside. They are very similar in that they spread people out as well as will pound it up the gut. The only difference will be the terminology and cadence in the huddle, but I think that'll only take a few days to figure out. I love the balance of Fisher's offense and I think it fits me well," said Manuel. He also mentioned that the offense looks to be turning the corner, saying, "Fisher's offense is not an overnight thing. He has athletes and players there, but they are just getting used to his system and expectations. There are pieces there in Preston Parker, Antone Smith, Xavier Lee and some of the lineman. I really like the receivers the Noles have right now. Give it time and I think the offense will be clicking."
This was the biggest recruiting weekend in a long time for the Noles, and E.J. was one of the four official visitors along with Corey Surrency, Andrew Datko and Dalton Freeman. E.J. spent a lot of time with these guys, in particular new Seminole commitment Corey Surrency. E.J. states, "Him and I sat together the whole game and when we ate. Fisher wanted us to hook up and hang out. He trusts that I am staying a commitment and that I am not going anywhere. We talked about turning it around and the success we are going to have together in Fisher's offense. He was telling me that he had it narrowed down to us and LSU, and we talked about how we had the same process in determining the school that was right for us. Visits are the same no matter where you go in terms of the schools want to make sure you have a good time. Fisher works best for the both of us personally. With Andrew (Datko) and Dalton (Freeman), I feel real good about those guys coming to FSU. I told them I needed some linemen for the future and that I needed them to commit. I can't remember all of the names of the people I spoke to this weekend, but it was a lot. As a group (the commitments) we are trying to get these guys who are uncommitted to join the family."
E.J. was very impressed with the atmosphere at FSU, and it one of the lasting memories he has from his visit this weekend. He said, "They had a lot of chants going on during the game, and some of those kind of get embedded in your head. By far FSU has the best fans that I have ever seen in any game I have been to. They show love to their players and just have fun when they're there."
Another highlight for Manuel was the time he spent with legendary Bobby Bowden and Jimbo Fisher. "I spent about 35-40 minutes with Coach Bowden before I left. It is always very neat talking to him. Maybe the best was the time I spent with Coach Fisher. I really don't want to put out there the things he talked about with me and my family, but we talked about some important things. Nothing like questions, just talk. We had a very good conversation, and he wants me to continue to work hard. I am ready to go there and work and get ready."
Manuel's family came with him this past weekend, and once again they came away impressed with what FSU had to offer their son. E.J. said, "They had a real good time. My sister loved it there too. Tallahassee reminds us so much of Virginia Beach. A lot of people knew our family when we were there, and they were respectful and cool towards us. Anywhere we went they showed us love. I know for sure that my father and I will be coming back to FSU for the spring game so we can check that out."
Now that his only official visit is out of the way, E.J. has some goals that he wants to accomplish before heading to Tallahassee in the summer. "This visit solidified everything for me. It's not that I ever had doubts, but I just really realized that that place is my home. I can't wait to sign on the dotted line on my letter-of-intent. The coaches told me to focus on what I needed to do, and one of those things is winning the rest of our games at Bayside and winning the state championship. I really think we're going to make noise in the playoffs this year. I also plan to keep recruiting and getting guys to come to FSU. At the All-Star game I plan to really talk us up and see what guys are saying. I want to keep my GPA at 3.2 and hopefully maybe even get it a little higher. I also want to continue to get better, get stronger and get faster so I can be prepared for the college game. As of now I graduate June 11th or 12th, and I plan on being at FSU no later than 2 days after. I am ready to go and cannot wait to be a Seminole football player."