Matthew Peaslee | Here’s Johnny: Manziel will win Heisman
The only Heisman Trophy vote I get is on an ESPN.com poll.
I’ll gladly make my selection public: Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel.
Saturday in New York City, the redshirt freshman known as “Johnny Football” could join the likes of Roger Staubach, Jim Plunkett and Vinny Testaverde.
Jason White and Chris Weinke, too. Remember them? Me neither.
But even with the most prestigious individual award in college football, Manziel will be in a class of his own as the only freshman to win it.
That may deter some voters, but I think that makes his story even more astounding. Add in the fact that the Aggies jumped from the Big 12 to the Southeastern Conference. Not a big jump in competition, but still, getting the feel of a new conference isn’t easy in the first year.
Just look at West Virginia falling from a national title contender (with two legitimate Heisman hopefuls) in Week 5 to dropping to the Pinstripe Bowl at the end of the season.
Manziel has racked up 4,600 total yards this season, surpassing former SEC quarterbacks and Heisman winners, Cam Newton and Tim Tebow. Tebow, remember him? The New York Jets don’t.
He’s also the only freshman and just the fifth player in NCAA history to pass for more than 3,000 yards and run for 1,000 while leading Texas A&M to a 10-2 season and a Cotton Bowl berth.
It’s not the national title, obviously, but that doesn’t mean the award should be handed to Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o. He has eye-popping numbers for a college linebacker and is the best player on arguably the best defense in the country.
He has seven interceptions in his senior year (impressive). But he is tied for 59th in tackles (not so impressive), even though he is third all-time in Notre Dame history for tackles.
Te’o could be the first defense-only player to win the Heisman and another candidate like him won’t be coming around any time soon.
Then there’s Collin Klein. Almost lost in the shuffle of the aforementioned finalists, Klein was a consistent threat with his arms and legs, though not as flashy as Manziel. And while Manziel’s defining moment came by beating Alabama and Te’o’s came from leading the Irish to an undefeated season, Klein nearly blew his chance with a three-interception performance in a loss to Baylor. That was his defining moment.
In an uncharacteristic move inviting just three finalists to Times Square, there were snubs.
Around here, many Buckeyes clamored for Braxton Miller who was a central reason for the Buckeyes’ undefeated season. Yet, his numbers pale in comparison to Manziel’s and WVU QB Geno Smith. Miller still has two years to win it.
Smith was the favorite after the Mountaineers went 5-0 downing Baylor in a 70-63 shoot out. A five-game losing streak all but ended his hope, but a nation-best 40 touchdowns with a 71.4 completion percentage and 4,004 passing yards are nothing to overlook.
Another Mountaineer, Tavon Austin, was arguably the most explosive player in the country and kept the skid from continuing. He’s a force in the return game, on the ground and catching passes. In a loss to Oklahoma, Austin nearly broke the NCAA record for total yards with 572, leading Sooner defensive coordinator Mike Stoops to say, “he was able to do something I haven’t seen on a football field before.”
Still, choosing only three finalists who were most deserving was the best call.
And Manziel, if he stays healthy and consistent, could be Archie Griffin-esque in the next few years.
Matthew Peaslee is a sports writer for The Vindicator. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.