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Texas A&M’s ‘Johnny Football’ Is First Freshman Heisman Winner

Johnny Manziel
Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel of the Texas A&M Aggies looks to pass during their game against the Missouri Tigers at Kyle Field on November 24, 2012 in College Station, Texas. Photographer: Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Texas A&M University quarterback Johnny Manziel became the first freshman and the second Aggie to win the Heisman Trophy in the 78-year history of college football’s top individual award.

Manziel received 2,029 points, 323 more than University of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o. Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein was third in balloting conducted by the Heisman Trophy Trust.

Manziel, who turned 20 two days ago, totaled 4,600 yards of offense this season to break the Southeastern Conference record of 4,327 set by former Auburn University quarterback Cam Newton during his Heisman-winning 2010 campaign. Manziel has passed for 3,419 yards and 24 touchdowns while rushing for 1,181 yards and 19 scores.

“This is a moment I have dreamed about since I was a kid,” Manziel said in a televised interview. “I wish my whole team could be up here with me. To be invited into this fraternity, what a pleasure it is.”

A 6-foot-1 redshirt freshman from Kerrville, Texas, Manziel led Texas A&M to a 10-2 record in its SEC debut, the school’s first 10-win season since 1998. He also had a showcase performance that thrust him into the national spotlight, throwing for 253 yards and two touchdowns in a 29-24 road win against reigning national champion Alabama while rushing for 92 yards on 18 carries.

He is the second-youngest winner to earn the award following Alabama’s Mark Ingram, who was 19 when he won in 2009.

Manziel, nicknamed “Johnny Football,” becomes the second Texas A&M player to win the Heisman Trophy, following halfback John David Crow in 1957. A high school All-American, Manziel landed in College Station, Texas, last year after breaking an oral commitment to attend the University of Oregon.

Redshirt Freshman

After redshirting during his first year -- delaying his participation to lengthen his college eligibility -- Manziel this season replaced National Football League first-round draft pick Ryan Tannehill as the Aggies’ starting quarterback. Manziel won the starting job two weeks before the school’s season-opening game and thrived in the spread offense system used by new coach Kevin Sumlin, who carried his success from the University of Houston to the SEC.

Manziel started his collegiate career with a 20-17 loss against the University of Florida and then accounted for 15 touchdowns in Texas A&M’s next three games. In a Sept. 29 win against Arkansas, Manziel totaled 557 yards of total offense to break an SEC record that was set by Archie Manning in 1969. He broke that mark two weeks later with 576 total yards in a win against Louisiana Tech.

Manziel is the fifth player at college football’s top level to pass for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in the same season, and the only freshman to do so.

Season’s Numbers

“You put Johnny’s numbers up against anybody in a single season, not just this year, but any year -- anybody who’s ever played the game,” Sumlin told reporters last week. “When you’re talking about those types of numbers and you put that in perspective with the league we’re playing in, the combination of those two things tell you all you need to know.”

The Aggies finished ninth in the final Bowl Championship Series rankings and play No. 11 Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 4 in Arlington, Texas.

Former University of Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson had the highest previous finish for a freshman in the Heisman voting, as the runner-up to University of Southern California quarterback Matt Leinart in 2004. Quarterback Michael Vick was third in the 1999 balloting as a freshman, as was running back Herschel Walker in 1980.

Manziel is the 11th quarterback in the past 13 years to win the Heisman Trophy as college football’s most outstanding player. He received 424 first-place votes in the balloting, which is conducted by a nationwide panel of media members and former Heisman winners. Te’o had 321 first-place votes; and Klein 60.

Defensive Player

Te’o, a 21-year-old senior, was seeking to become the first player to win the Heisman while playing only on defense. He led a Notre Dame defense that allowed the fewest points in the nation, recording a team-leading 103 tackles and seven interceptions as the Fighting Irish went 12-0 and will play for the BCS championship.

Klein, a 23-year-old senior, accounted for 37 touchdowns as Kansas State went 11-1 and finished fifth in the BCS rankings. Klein passed for 2,490 yards and 15 touchdowns while rushing for 890 yards and 22 scores.

The Heisman trophy is named in memory of John Heisman, a former coach who as director of New York’s Downtown Athletic Club helped create the award in 1935. Heisman died from pneumonia less than a year later.

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