Johnny “Football” Manziel
By David Hollinshead, Contributor
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about potential winners of the Heisman Trophy this year, saying that no one had really made a huge jump to go grab it. This continues to be true, as none of the players on the Heisman Watch List were at the number one spot for longer than two. Now there is a player who is making a late-season drive towards being college football’s most valuable player. If you can believe it, this dark horse is a freshman. Johnny Manziel has made his presence known in the football world after the 19-year-old freshman quarterback led his ninth ranked Texas A&M Aggies in an unimaginable upset, defeating the number one ranked Alabama Crimson Tide 29–24.
Alabama—coached by the great Nick Saban—constantly produces quality talent in the NFL, repeatedly sending out starters in the first round of the draft. They were predicted to go undefeated this season, being considered a lock to compete in the National Championship game against either Oregon or Kansas State. However, Alabama could not stop the Aggies offense and their constant mistakes in the red zone ultimately cost them the game.
The Aggies jumped out to a quick 20–0 lead in the first quarter before Alabama started a comeback in the second quarter, bringing them within a field goal 20–17. The Aggies kicked a field goal and scored another touchdown before the Tide answered, scoring a touchdown for themselves. The game was sealed after Tide quarterback AJ McCaron threw an interception in the endzone to Aggies cornerback Deshazor Everett.
The most astounding thing about this upset victory? A freshman quarterback playing near flawlessly against the number one ranked defense. Manziel was a threat not only in the air but on the ground, completing 24 of 31passes for 253 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions, adding 92 yards on 18 carries. If you have been following the Aggies this season, you’ll know that this isn’t something new from him. Manziel has thrown for over 2,700 yards and 18 touchdowns while also running for over 1,000 yards and another 15 scores. He has also led his team to a 9–2 record in its first season in the powerhouse SEC.
Manziel is now being discussed in some circles as a potential Heisman candidate. Just looking at his stats and comparing them to the other quarterbacks like Matt Barkley or Geno Smith might make you think less of Manziel but if you watch the film, you know this team is succeeding because of Johnny “Football”, as he’s been aptly re-named. You can also look at the teams looking to play in the National Championship, such as Oregon, Kansas State, Alabama, and Notre Dame and find that there isn’t a single player that has stood out above the rest and put on performances that are worthy of the Heisman.
In one game, Manziel went from being an undersized dual threat quarterback that teams didn’t think twice of to someone with MVP potential. Manziel fought for the starting job in spring camp, wasn’t even named the starter for the team until August 15, and has never looked back since. Head coach Kevin Sumlin looks like a genius for his decision. They even stole him from Oregon as Manziel had a verbal agreement to play for the Ducks where he would’ve probably been sitting behind fellow freshman Marcus Mariota, but Aggies offensive coordinator and former NFL quarterback Cliff Kingsbury was able to talk him into staying in his home state.. Now they get to watch him become one of the most nationally relevant quarterbacks in the world and (fingers crossed) potentially win the Heisman.