Column: Johnny Football should be Johnny Heisman

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Otherwise, our impressions were formed by what he did with the helmet on.

How he ran circles around opposing defenses, how he threw touchdown passes off the wrong foot, how he chased down and tackled two Louisiana Tech players after a turnover, how he led the Aggies to a surprising 10-win season in their Southeastern Conference debut, including an upset of mighty Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

Now, after an hour-long conference call with media from all over the country, we know a little more.

Manziel is cool with the nickname. He enjoys playing video games, including the college football version, though apparently not so much as himself. He’s still getting used to all the attention he receives when he does something as simple as going out to dinner.

“I don’t see myself as Johnny Football. I see myself as Johnathan Manziel,” he says. “When people want to take my picture or ask for an autograph, I’m shocked by it. I’m not used to the whole thing, even though it’s kind of becoming a daily thing.”

He tries to avoid watching highlights of himself, like the ones posted in countless tribute videos, or the more humorous attempts to pay homage to his growing legend. No, he hasn’t seen the video by the woman old enough to be his mother, who croons to the camera with her own version of early-1960s hit “Johnny Angel” while surrounded by Aggies gear.

“Johnny Football, how we love him,” she warbles. “He’s got something Aggies can’t resist. And he doesn’t even know impossible exists.”

In other seasons, when the race wasn’t so clear-cut, Te’o might’ve been positioned to join Charles Woodson as only the second defensive player to capture the Heisman.

The Notre Dame senior certainly has the stats to back up his candidacy (103 tackles and seven interceptions), but there’s so much more to his resume.

He’s the undisputed leader on the nation’s top-ranked team, a major reason the Fighting Irish went unbeaten in the regular season for the first time since 1988 and landed a spot in the national championship game against either Alabama or Georgia. It’s hard not to shed a tear every time he makes a big play, either, remembering how he’s still dealing with the grief of losing both his grandmother (who died after a long illness) and his girlfriend (who succumbed to leukemia) just a few hours apart on an awful day back in September.

A special season, to be sure.

But Manziel’s debut season goes beyond that. It’s transformational, like the first time you saw Herschel Walker flatten a defensive back, or Michael Vick cutting this way and that on one play, then unleashing a 70-yard pass on the next.

It’s beyond Heisman-worthy.

“This is something you dream about as a kid,” Manziel said. “When you’re playing those NCAA (video) games as a kid, you create players who can win the Heisman by putting up some crazy numbers.”

When he used to dream up his perfect player for that make-believe world, it looked more like Newton.

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