Heis-Manziel! Legend of Johnny Football Continues. . .
On Saturday the Heisman Memorial Trophy was given out for the 78th time and for the first time a freshman won the prestigious award. Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel became the 2nd Aggie to take home the Heisman Trophy, halfback John David Crow won the award in 1957. Manziel became the 11th quarterback to win the award in the last 13 years and the 33rd overall, but was the first freshman and the 2nd youngest (Mark Ingram was 19 in ’09) turning 20 just 2 days before the presentation at the Best Buy Theater in Times Square.
The Heisman race in 2012 has been a rollercoaster opening with USC QB Matt Barkley as a front-runner. Through the first few weeks of the season we thought that West Virginia QB Geno Smith was going to run away with it but his hopes fell off a cliff mid-season and in walked K-State QB Collin Klein. Many thought that the Wildcat had a good chance, and he did being named one of the 3 finalists but when his team lost his flair fizzled and was essentially invited to fill a seat.
With about 3 weeks to go the world was abruptly introduced to the man, myth and legend of Johnny Football. Manziel led the Aggies over the undefeated #1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide and with that he was the new favorite. Manti Te’o didn’t have a record breaking year, but the linebacker from Notre Dame did have a great year as well as being the leader of one of the best defenses in the country, on an undefeated team playing for the National Championship.
Klein, Te’o and Manziel were the three finalists for the award all of which traveled to New York City hoping that Heisman Trust spokesperson Anne Donahue would awkwardly announce their name as the winner. Collin Klein had a solid year but nothing that blew your mind passing for more than 245 yards just once and rushing for over 100 yards just 3 times. He finished the year passing for 2490 yards, 15 touchdowns, 7 interceptions and was sacked just 13 times, compared to 42 last season. Klein added another 890 yards on 194 rush attempts scoring 22 rushing touchdowns but this year was arguable moderately better than his junior season in 2011. Klein had 3 more total touchdowns, 250 more rushing yards, 500 less passing yards but 1 less interception in 2011 and he didn’t even finish in the top 10 in Heisman voting that year.
Klein likely knew he didn’t stand a chance but who doesn’t want to come on national television and announce that they didn’t kiss a girl until they were married in June. Awkward. I guess he was too busy focusing on his true love, football, which is likely divorcing him. Klein has reportedly not been offered a spot in the Senior Bowl and will likely not get much of an opportunity in the next level either. Manti Te’o on the other hand may likely be selected in the early-mid first round, my guess is somewhere between 8 and 16. Te’o is a solid linebacker that can fill the ILB in a 3-4 or play the mike in a standard base 4-3. He was the only defensive player even contemplated for college football’s most honorable award but by now we must realize this is not a defensive trophy.
Te’o’s numbers don’t jump off the page but his play may be the biggest reason why the Notre Dame Fightin’ Irish are in the position they currently sit. He accumulated over 100 total tackles, including 1.5 sacks, 7 interceptions and 2 fumble recoveries. His 9 forced turnovers were tied for the most in college football but the greatest stat is that he allegedly missed just 2 tackles all season long. You can miss 2 tackles in a single drive, but to go 12 games and miss just 2 tackles, that’s nuts. If Te’o had comparable stats at the QB position it would be a unanimous decision who to give the award to. The problem is that he plays defense and didn’t spend any time lining up on offense and good riddance.
Te’o came decked out in traditional Hawaiian garb, rocking some lei’s and generously dawning some on the parents of each finalist. He was hoping to become the first pure, truly pure, defensive player to win the award but he forgot that his numbers aren’t as flashy as offensive stats and there is a clear bias. Ndamukong Suh had an incredible year in 2009 and he finished 4th, the last and only “predominantly” defensive player to win the award was Michigan’s Charles Woodson in 1997, but he did spend some time on the offensive side of the ball. Te’o received 321 first place votes and finished 300 and some odd points behind the eventual winner, falling just short with 1706 total points. Te’o and the undefeated Irish will go on and face Alabama for the BCS Championship but I think his chances of winning this award were better than his team beating the Crimson Tide.
Manziel recorded 474 first place votes and tallied a total of 2029 points from a panel of media members and former Heisman Trophy winners. The decision was going to be groundbreaking whether a defensive player won the award or a redshirt freshman. In the end it was Johnny Manziel and it was because of 1 game against the right opponent at the right time. Not to say that Manziel didn’t have an incredible season, which he did breaking Cam Newton’s SEC record for most total yards. Newton set that record in 2010, the year he won the Heisman. Cam broke the old record from 2007 set by Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow. See what I’m getting at? Manziel winning was inevitable and it wasn’t JUST because of the game against ‘Bama but rather the continuation of lore.
Manziel had an incredible career in high school as a dual threat quarterback and he wanted to bring his talents to Chip Kelly’s Oregon Ducks, but that didn’t work out. Instead Manziel came to Texas A&M and redshirted last year while Ryan Tannehill and head coach Mike Sherman let him warm the bench. Tannehill and Sherman shipped off to south beach and in stepped the freshman Manziel and first-year head coach Kevin Sumlin. Did I mention it was the team’s first year in the SEC? Did I mention that Manziel was actually a backup coming out of spring practice and didn’t win the starting job until two weeks before the season? Manziel would go on to throw for 3419 yards, 24 touchdowns and rush for another 1181 yards and 19 scores. He became the first SEC player to throw for over 3000 yards and rush for over 1000 in a season and he did it as a freshman. Did I mention why he won? Because he was supposed to.
Manziel and the Aggies finished the regular season 10-2 good enough to be ranked 9th in the BCS and capture a spot in the AT&T Cotton Bowl against Oklahoma. The team started off slowly with a 20-17 loss to the Florida Gators and Manziel wasn’t very impressive in his first official start. He had just 173 passing yards, no touchdowns and no picks, with 60 yards on the ground on 17 attempts and a score. Not a great performance and neither was the show he had in the teams other loss at the hands of LSU 24-19. He had 276 passing yards but threw 3 of his 8 interceptions and didn’t pass for a touchdown while rushing the ball 17 times for a season low 27 yards on the ground. Nobody was saw Manziel as the next up and coming QB, let alone a top tier Heisman candidate at that point.
Manziel jumped onto the scene with his performance in his team’s 29-24 win against the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide. Johnny Football completed 77 percent of his 31 passes (24) for 253 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interceptions, along with 92 yards on the ground. With the spotlight shining bright the kid stepped up and finished the season’s final 2 games throwing for 639 yards, 6 touchdowns and 2 interceptions and another 167 yards and 4 touchdowns on the ground. The ‘Bama game was enough to propel Manziel into the limelight and the fable of Johnny Football continued.
The legend of Johnny Football grew Saturday night as he became the first freshman QB to win the Heisman Trophy. Manziel composed himself enough to give a decent acceptance speech in front of the cameras and a room full of family, friends and former Heisman winners. He thanked his teammates along with God and some spiel about a fallen comrade before going around and introducing himself to every former-winner on the stage. The fact of the matter is that they should be thanking him, especially Kevin Sumlin and the TAMU athletic department. Do you know how much easier it got to recruit for them? Congratulations to Johnny Manziel he deserved the award but I do think the time has come to celebrate the Chuck Bednarik Award as much as we do the Heisman Trophy. For those of you that don’t know that is college football’s defensive player of the year award, because clearly they’re never goping to add this to their trophy case.