Niagara Gazette — FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — EJ Manuel and Geno Smith were two guys with big arms and even bigger dreams when they first met at a football camp in South Florida a few years ago.
They kept in touch with occasional text messages through high school and then college, where Manuel starred at Florida State and Smith at West Virginia. By the time the draft rolled around in April, both quarterbacks were considered first-round possibilities.
Manuel went to Buffalo at No. 16, a bit higher than some projected.
Smith, once mentioned as a possible No. 1 pick, slid all the way to the Jets in the second round at No. 39.
“I stood up,” Smith recalled Wednesday of his reaction when Manuel was drafted before him. “I congratulated him and that was it. I was happy for him. I was happy for every single guy that got drafted.”
Smith, however, went through the embarrassment of having television cameras focused on him as each pick was made in the first round — without hearing his name.
“I’m past that now,” Smith said. “I hate to talk about it because I’m focusing on what we have here, which is a great opportunity, (a) good team and we’ve got a tough matchup coming up on Sunday.”
That’s when the attention will again be on the first two quarterbacks drafted, when the Bills (1-1) and Jets (1-1) square off. It’s the 106th game in the series, and the first featuring a pair of rookie starting quarterbacks.
“To be compared to EJ, I’ll take it,” Smith said. “EJ’s a great guy. He’s accomplished a bunch in his career and I think the world of him. He’s also my good friend, so it’s good to compete against a guy like that.
“But when it comes down to Sunday, there are no friends on the field. We’re out there competing for our teams and that’s all there really is to it.”