For the last two years, I've been covering the Heisman Trophy on a weekly basis during the season for Crystal Ball Run. During that time I've had a chance to really see from week to week the ebb and flow of who's hot and who's not as players jockey for position in our weekly poll.
This years story of Johnny Manziel is definitely one for the ages. Manziel becomes the first freshman to ever win the Heisman Trophy. He's also the first Texas A&M player to win the trophy since 1957. But that's just the beginning of the story.
A bigger surprise for me is where Manziel came from to win the trophy. Where did he come from? He came from a place completely off the map. The 2011 Texas A&M Aggies were branded as chokers for their penchant to lose first half leads and let games slip away. They let their season slip away in a similar fashion as they started 5-2 but won only one of their last five regular season games and finished 6-6 before winning their bowl game.
The off-season was a time of change for the Aggies. Head coach Mike Sherman was shown the door and Houston's Kevin Sumlin was tabbed to pick the Aggies up off the mat. The Aggies also moved from their long-time Big 12 home to the hornet's nest that is the SEC. Pre-season predictions had the Aggies finishing near the bottom of the SEC West. We were guilty as well, as we had them sixth in the SEC West.
To think that a freshman quarterback on a team that finished 7-6 the previous year, was changing conferences and had a new coach would win the Heisman was unthinkable. With the odds already stacked against them, the Aggies went out and lost their first game to Florida. Sitting at 0-1, the Aggies marched off five straight victories before meeting up with the rough and tumble LSU Tigers where the Aggies fell for the second time this season.
Manziel was putting up impressive stats throughout the season but the one game that put him on the radar for the Heisman was the road win against the #1 team in the country, the Alabama Crimson Tide. The Aggies jumped out to a 20-0 lead and held on late for a 29-24 win where Manziel had 253 yards passing, 92 yards rushing and 2 touchdown passes. Statistically, it wasn't his best game but nobody expected the Aggies to win and the fact that Manziel led them to victory was his Heisman moment.
Manziel finished the regular season with 4600 yards of total offense which set an SEC record. The last two players to hold that record were Cam Newton (2010) and Tim Tebow (2007). Both of them won the Heisman Trophy. Johnny Manziel wins the Heisman Trophy with a storybook freshman season. Now what can he do for an encore?
I guess we knew the fix was in when only 3 players were even invited to New York. No freshman should win this award. I congratulate Manziel for winning it, but you Heisman people should hide in shame.
@SkinsHogHeaven Why should no freshman win the award?
@CFBZ Because we haven't seen enough of Manziel to know whether he's a flash in the pan or plays consistently at the highest level over a college career. If Texas A&M doesn't win that game against high profile Alabama, Manziel would not have won the Trophy. They Heisman is not a best single game award.
@CFBZ Good point on Newton and Tebow. Newton was highly regarded before he got to Auburn (tho' Tebow beat him out at Florida.)
RGIII played at a consistently high level in his third year as starter for Baylor. There is validity in his performance Manziel hasn't had the chance to show yet. I'm looking forward the Bowl game to get a better look at him.
@SkinsHogHeaven I see your points but I don't agree with them. The Heisman has gone to "unproven" guys before in the past like Cam Newton (who only played one year of college football) and Tim Tebow (who won the trophy as a sophomore after not starting the previous year).
I agree that Manziel wouldn't have won if A&M wouldn't have beaten Bama but RG3 wouldn't have won last year if he didn't complete one specific pass. That pass was the one that shocked Oklahoma with eight seconds left in the game. If RG3 doesn't complete that pass, he doesn't win the Heisman. He was completely out of the voting by that point in the season.
I think what you can chalk Manziel's victory up to is a weak Heisman field. Do you give it to Manti Te'o, who isn't even the best defensive player in the country, who is up for the award because his team is undefeated. Do you give it to Collin Klein as a career achievement award? Manziel broke the SEC's all time single season yardage record formerly held by two Heisman winners (Tebow and Newton). Does he deserve it? I think he deserves it as much as anybody else does this season.