Texas A&M’s quarterback Johnny Manziel has put up absurd numbers this year. So absurd, that his play has garnered him the nickname “Johnny Football.”
Through 12 games this season, Manziel has 3,419 yards passing and 24 touchdowns to go with 1,181 yards and 19 touchdowns rushing. His 4,600 yards have set an SEC total offense record, eclipsing Cam Newton and Tim Tebow, who now rank second and third respectively in the category. Manziel has done it even though he sat out the second half of games for much of the season due to A&M’s large leads in games. And, by the way, he’s a freshman. Johnny Football—it has a nice ring to it. Johnny Heisman—it has a nicer ring to it.
In Newton and Tebow’s Heisman trophy-winning seasons (the seasons in which they set their aforementioned yardage records) they were the talk of college football. Analysts, commentators, and fans everywhere respected these two players and brushed aside any contemplation of a different player winning college football’s most prestigious award. But Johnny Manziel hasn’t received the same certainty.
Analysts now ask if his statistics are enough. The historic and unprecedented numbers are being compared to the less-impressive statistics of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o and Kansas State quarterback, Collin Klein. Why might Manziel’s lore be brought into question? He is a freshman in line for an award that has never been given to a freshman, and an award that many voters have unfairly labeled as unable to be given to one. But before Tim Tebow’s Heisman year, a sophomore had never won the award. Johnny Manziel has better statistics than Tim Tebow. Johnny Manziel is a better showstopper. But, Johnny Manziel is a freshman.
Freshman Texas A&M football players, like Manziel, are off-limits to the media. While Collin Klein and Manti Te’o are in front of the cameras weekly after their games, putting their brand out into the world, Johnny Manziel is walking back to his dorm to watch them after his. Has this lack of exposure and promotion hurt him? Not a bit. Being hidden during the post-game festivities has helped Manziel.
The lore of Johnny Football has grown each week, as the nation outside of College Station doesn’t even know what this incredible quarterback’s voice sounds like, let alone a thing about how he carries himself and what he is like as a person.
Amidst an imminent trip to New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation, however, Kevin Sumlin has had to amend his policy. Johnny Manziel was open to the media via teleconference on Monday of this week, and held a live-streamed press conference in front of national cameras on Tuesday. The anticipation absolutely sent national sports outlets into a feeding frenzy. Since his two speaking engagements, ESPN has run a segment on Manziel during every edition of SportsCenter.
So, can a freshman win the Heisman? Yes. And he will. He has the best numbers in college football while playing against the top defenses and is the most electric player this year.
Johnny Manziel. Johnny Football. Johnny Heisman? You bet.