Heisman Trophy: Manziel first freshman winner

By Ralph D. Russo
Associated Press  • 
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Kelly Kline | REUTERS
Johnny Manziel totaled 474 first-place votes and 2,029 points to outdistance Manti Te’o and Collin Klein.

NEW YORK — Johnny Football just got himself a cooler nickname: Johnny Heisman.

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, taking college football’s top individual prize last night after a record-breaking debut.

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o finished a distant second and Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein was third in the voting. In a Heisman race with two nontraditional candidates, Manziel broke through the class barrier and kept Te’o from becoming the first purely defensive player to win the award.

Manziel drew 474 first-place votes and 2,029 points from a panel of media members and former winners.

“I have been dreaming about this since I was a kid, running around the backyard pretending I was Doug Flutie, throwing Hail Marys to my dad,” he said after hugging his parents and younger sister.

Manziel seemed incredibly calm after his name was announced, hardly resembling the guy who dashes around the football field on Saturdays. He bowed his head, and later gave the trophy a quick kiss.

“I wish my whole team could be up here with me,” he said with a wide smile.

Te’o had 321 first-place votes and 1,706 points; Klein received 60 firsts and 894 points.

Just a few days after turning 20, Manziel proved times have truly changed in college football, and that experience can be overrated.

For years, seniors dominated the award, named after John Heisman, the pioneering Georgia Tech coach from the early 1900s. In the 1980s, juniors started becoming common winners. Tim Tebow became the first sophomore to win it in 2007, and two more won it in the next two seasons.

Adrian Peterson had come closest as a freshman, finishing second to Southern California quarterback Matt Leinart in 2004. But it took 78 years for a freshman to take home the big bronze statue. Manziel really can do it all.

Peterson was a true freshman for Oklahoma. As a redshirt freshman, Manziel attended school and practiced with the team last year but did not play in any games.

He’s the second player from Texas A&M to win the Heisman — joining John David Crow in 1957 — and did so without the slightest hint of preseason hype. Manziel didn’t even win the starting job until two weeks before the season.

With daring dashes and elusive improvisation, Manziel broke 2010 Heisman winner Cam Newton’s Southeastern Conference record with 4,600 total yards, led the Aggies to a 10-2 record in their first season in the SEC and orchestrated an upset at then-No. 1 Alabama in November that stamped him as legit.

He has passed for 3,419 yards and 24 touchdowns and run for 1,181 yards and 19 scores to become the first freshman, first SEC player and fifth player overall to pass for 3,000 yards and run for 1,000 in a season.

Manziel has one more game this season, when the No. 10 Aggies play Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 4.

The résumé alone does not capture the Johnny Football phenomena. At 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, Manziel is a master of the unexpected, darting here and there, turning seemingly stifled plays into touchdowns.

For example, in the first quarter against the Crimson Tide. Manziel took a shotgun snap, stepped up in the pocket as if he were about to take off on another mad scramble and ran into the back of a lineman. On impact, Manziel bobbled the ball, caught it with his back to the line of scrimmage, turned, rolled the opposite direction and threw a touchdown pass across his body to a wide-open receiver.

Manziel competed with two other quarterbacks to replace Ryan Tannehill as the starter this season, the Aggies’ first in the SEC and first under coach Kevin Sumlin.

Manziel came out of spring practice as the backup, and went to work with a private quarterback coach in the summer to better his chances of winning the job in the preseason.

It worked, but still no one was hailing Manziel as the next big thing.

Manziel was something of a mystery man. Sumlin’s rules prohibit freshmen from being available to the media. He was off-limits, but not exactly silent.

Manziel gave glimpses of himself on social media — including some memorable pictures of himself dressed as Scooby-Doo for Halloween with some scantily clad young women.

Before he became a celebrity, Manziel got himself into some serious trouble. In June, he was arrested in College Station after police said he was involved in a fight and produced a fake ID. He was charged with disorderly conduct and two other misdemeanors.

After the season, Texas A&M took the reins off Manziel and made him available for interviews, allowing Manziel to tell his own story.

In the end, though, his play said it all and he made Heisman history.

 

Final voting

Finalists voting for the Heisman Trophy, with first-, second- and third-place votes and total points (voting on a 3-2-1 basis):

PLAYER SCHOOL 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
QB Johnny Manziel Texas A&M 474 252 103 2,029
LB Manti Te’O Notre Dame 321 309 125 1,706
QB Collin Klein Kansas State  60 197 320 894

  Others receiving votes

PLAYER SCHOOL 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
WR Marqise Lee Southern California 19 33 84 207
QB Braxton Miller Ohio State  3 29 77 144
DE Jadeveon Clowney South Carolina  4 13 23 61
QB Jordan Lynch Northern Illinois  3  8 27 52
WR Tavon Austin West Virginia  6  4 21 47

 

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