By all accounts, it appears that history will be made on Saturday as Johnny Manziel will likely be the first freshman to ever hoist the Heisman Trophy. His gaudy statistics provide easy evidence to build a case for why the Texas A&M Aggies‘ sensational signal-caller deserves to win, but his season-long statements speak far louder than touchdowns accumulated or yardage per carry.
Johnny Football could be another example of college football’s most vaguely-defined award being forced into the hands of who deserves it most in recent years.
He’ll sit with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish‘s Manti Te’o and Kansas State Wildcats‘ Collin Klein. All three have tasted success that their respective schools haven’t in a long time this season, but Manziel sticks out. Yes, he’s the freshman in the room–and let’s face it, the probable winner–but in 2010 and 2011, while other candidates were deserving, the player who held the trophy aloft was truly the most “outstanding player” in the land.
Regardless of how he was acquired in 2010, the Auburn Tigers‘ Cam Newton was easily the sport’s most entertaining athlete. The addition of a happy-go-lucky smile to his eyebrow-raising play made him a controversial player, but if you couldn’t respect Newton’s overall ability to duck, dodge and score–well, denial’s not pretty on anyone.
The Baylor Bears‘ Robert Griffin III was a far more palatable choice because unlike Newton, he didn’t have controversy surrounding him.
He was a humble young man playing at a school that rarely sees the brightest of spotlights, excelling, entertaining, being exceptional. That and his sock collection was proven nothing short of tremendous in its own right. Griffin sat among premiere athletes, but the dual-threat quarterback couldn’t be denied the title of “most outstanding.” Neither could the Superman socks (complete with cape) he wore that evening.
Due to sanctions and perhaps politics, Manziel sits with a smaller crowd, but is no less the athlete or superstar than the last two Heisman winners. What’s most important to take away from their individual honors is not only did they lead their teams to victory, it was fun watching them do so.
In the moments where players excel or fold, they rose to the occasion in grand fashion. Their teams couldn’t have made the strides they did without them, just as the Aggies would’ve faltered far more often without Johnny Football.
Their only two losses came by eight points to eventual top ten teams come bowl season. There were 10 other players on the field with Manziel, but without him, the Aggies couldn’t kick sand in the eye of Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide, giving them their record’s only blemish.
Once again, some voters will likely go with regional bias or the anti-defender sentiment that permeates the Downtown Athletic Club halls for some reason. Should Manziel win, it will force legitimacy onto an award that has been nothing but political or a popularity contest for far too long.
Were Newton and Griffin III popular? Yes, but they also happened to be the most outstanding players at the time. Manziel’s case is no different. Let history be made and let the Heisman trophy gain another year of validity whether it deserves it or not.
Brandon Cavanaugh is a college football columnist for Rant Sports and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter: @eightlaces