It’s history. It’s justice for all. It’s Johnny Football.
And it’s about time.
When the 78th Heisman Trophy is awarded on Saturday night — a moment filled with sentiment, tradition and Americana — prepare for something completely different.
The bronze beauty will likely be presented to Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Could it be? Prior to this season, the nation’s best player was never a freshman? Of course not (and we know that freshmen were ineligible for many of those seasons). It’s the reflection of an antiquated mindset, the same thinking that has prevented a true defensive player from capturing the award.
The Heisman could go to a freshman.
It’s about time.
It should’ve happened 32 years ago, when the 1980 season revolved around one remarkable player, Georgia running back Herschel Walker. He carried the Bulldogs on his back, all the way to a national championship. He was a phenomenon.
And he had no realistic hope of carrying the Heisman Electoral College. Just because he was a freshman. South Carolina’s George Rogers was a great one, no doubt. But Herschel Walker was college football in 1980.
The Heisman isn’t a lifetime achievement award. Never has been. It’s about the most outstanding player of that season — period.
So if Manziel is judged to be the best player — over Notre Dame senior linebacker Manti Te’o and Kansas State senior quarterback Collin Klein — then he should win, regardless of what it says on his birth certificate.
How outstanding was Manziel’s season?
Let us count the ways.
These things just don’t happen.
How does someone from Kerrville, Texas arrive at college, take a normal redshirt season, work to earn a starting quarterback job and then … immediately contend for the Heisman?
He’s 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, pretty average looking, but he has the magic. That much was clear early on. He had a season filled with Heisman moments and that was enough to overcome the disadvantages.
Manziel wasn’t mentioned during the preseason Heisman buildup. Some years, if you don’t arrive with some momentum, it’s almost impossible to reach New York.
This season was different.
The prohibitive favorite, USC quarterback Matt Barkley, supposedly the best player on the best team, never got off the ground. The Trojans stumbled to 7-5. Barkley was injured in a late-season game.
South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore suffered a gruesome injury that knocked him out. Wisconsin running back Montee Ball finished fast, but by then, it was far too late. So the field was cleared for someone. That someone was Manziel.
Not only did he lack a Heisman campaign, he wasn’t permitted to be interviewed all season (there’s that freshman thing again). So the unknown collided with an air of mystery. It vanished the other week, when Manziel did a conference call, revealing a happy, funny, humble, likeable kid.
He just turned 20 on Friday. But he already has that undefinable quality, that Flutie-esque ability to make people miss and deliver a play.
The people who know Manziel best don’t seem particularly surprised by all of these proceedings. Manziel’s high-school career was the stuff of legends, too. My favorite story: As a sophomore, he rushed for an 80-yard touchdown. Penalty flag. Holding. On the next play, he rushed for a 90-yard touchdown.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
That’s Johnny Football.
He’s a worthy Heisman candidate. The numbers say so. His presence says so.
He’s a freshman. So what? Don’t make him wait. If he’s the best player, then he deserves the reward.
The Heisman Trophy, first presented in 1936, has always been cast at the Roman Bronze Foundry in Corona, Queens, N.Y. It is 14 inches long, 6 1/2 inches wide and 13 1/2 inches high. It weighs 25 pounds. It has never changed in appearance.
It’s one of the most traditional moments in sports, when the Heisman Trophy winner is announced, when that player’s life changes forever. Saturday, the award will likely be vaulted into the modern era. If you ask me, that’s progress.
DPS: Alabama head coach Nick Saban was recently trash-talked by colleagues, and he tells Dan Patrick he wishes he was spoken to in private prior to the insults.
Video: Football from NBC Sports
Saban hurt by colleagues' comments?
DPS: Alabama head coach Nick Saban was recently trash-talked by colleagues, and he tells Dan Patrick what he think of these comments.
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