Credit: Scott Halleran
COLLEGE STATION, TX - NOVEMBER 24: Johnny Manziel #2 of the Texas A&M Aggies celebrates a third quarter touchdown during their game against the Missouri Tigers at Kyle Field on November 24, 2012 in College Station, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Tuesday, Dec 4 at 2:00 PM
I must admit that I typically view the world through a maroon and white filter. I am in fact a Fightin’ Texas Aggie. Yes, I bleed maroon.
However, I am a sports journalist and have learned to be honest and objective when it comes to my alma mater. When the Aggies did not play well, I have never shyed away from pointing out the flaws in their game.
This year, though not flawless, the Aggies have played some of the most exciting football I’ve witnessed since the 1998 season when they nabbed the Big 12 title. A new head coach, a new offensive coordinator and a standout quarterback have brought the Aggie football program back to prominence.
It is the quarterback whose story this season may be one of the most interesting in college football. At the start of Spring ball, red-shirt freshman Johnny Manziel was not projected to be the Aggies' starter. Manziel was actually third on the depth chart for the Aggies in the Spring.
Though Manziel was a Texas high school football star, many Aggie fans saw a dismal future ahead for the team with a freshman quarterback in Manziel and the team's debut season in the SEC.
Oh, what a very, very pleasant surprise.
The red-shirt freshman helped propel a high octane Aggie offense, upset the #1- ranked team in the country and led the Aggies to a 10-2 overall record. The Aggies finished 6-2 in their first season as an SEC team. On January 4, Manziel and the Aggies will take on the Oklahoma Sooners in the Cotton Bowl. Most Aggies I have spoken to admitted that they did not see this coming.
What many of us also did not predict was that Manziel’s 2012 performance would earn him a spot as a Heisman finalist. An Aggie finalist for the prestigious honor is much more than a novelty. The one and only time an Aggie has won the Heisman was in 1957 when John David Crow brought the award to Aggieland.
While an Aggie hoisting the coveted trophy is rare, a freshman winning the award would be historic. No freshman in the 78 years of the Heisman award has ever been named the winner.
As I look to the other finalists, I feel certain that Johnny Manziel should be the first. The Heisman voters need to look beyond the player’s classification and look solely at performance.
Deserving as he is, the odds are historically stacked against freshmen contenders for the Heisman Trophy. Former Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson finished second in Heisman voting as a true freshman in 2004. As a red-shirt freshman, Michael Vick finished third in voting in 1999. True freshman Herschel Walker was also finished third in 1980.
So let’s make the case for Manziel. He is the first player in the history of the perennially national championship-producing SEC to have two games with more than 500 yards total offense in one season. Manziel broke the SEC single season record for offensive production by finishing with more than 4,600. He passed previous Heisman winners Cam Newton and Tim Tebow to reach the achievement. Notably, Manziel also made NCAA history this season as the first freshman to pass for 3000 yards and rush for 1000 yards in a single season.
Manziel’s achievements outweigh the achievements of the other two Heisman finalists, Manti Te’o of Notre Dame and Collin Klein of Kansas State.
Te’o has the chance to make history as the first defensive player to win the Heisman. The linebacker averaged 8.58 tackles per game as the leading tackler for an undefeated Notre Dame team. He finished the regular season with 103 tackles and seven interceptions. Te’o is a senior.
Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein ran for 22 TD’s and threw 12 during the 2012 season. Kansas State began the season 4-0 and ultimately finished 11-1 and won the Big 12 title. He produced 3,418 yards of total offense for the Wildcats this season. Klein, like Te’o, is also a senior.
While the stats are impressive for Te’o and Klein, Manziel’s record shattering season so early in his collegiate career should garner the most votes to win the 2012 Heisman Trophy. In discussions with other college football fans, I have heard the old argument, “Well, if he can do it as a freshman, he can surely do it again.”
That’s optimistic but not necessarily true. Manziel’s season may be a once in a career experience and while the future bodes well for the Aggie underclassman, there is nothing to say he can or will replicate the stats of 2012.
His numbers as a red-shirt freshman are worthy of the Heisman.
Depending on what website or blog you read, any of the three finalists are the front runner. But in my eyes, there is only one true contender: Johnny Manziel.
You can follow Maya Bethany Golden on Twitter at @Maya_golden