COLLEGE STATION, Texas — In the 77-year history of the Heisman Trophy, no freshman has ever won the award.
Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, the player who proved coach Kevin Sumlin’s prolific offense could work in the SEC, may finally change that.
Manziel accumulated 4,600 yards of total offense and 43 touchdowns this season along with a signature win over then top-ranked Alabama to make him a front-runner for the Heisman.
In the past some voters have been reluctant to pick a freshman for the award. But those attitudes might be changing.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops coached Adrian Peterson in 2004 when he finished second in voting — still the highest finish ever for a freshman.
“A player is a player, it shouldn’t matter what age he is,” Stoops said.
Manziel spoke to the media for the second straight day Tuesday after not being available all season because Sumlin doesn’t allow freshman to talk to the media. He danced around the question almost as deftly as he avoids defenders when scrambling out of the pocket when asked if he thought age should matter in Heisman voting.
“I’ve heard a lot about it and people have their different opinions on that,” he said. “I just think that situation will play itself out. It goes to the most outstanding player in college football, if that happens to be me then that’s something that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life. If not, then that’s just kind of how the cookie crumbles, I guess.”
The other top freshman finishers in the history of the Heisman were Herschel Walker in 1980 and Michael Vick in 1999, who both came in third. Vick, like Manziel, was a redshirt freshman. Walker and Peterson were in their first seasons on campus.
“I do remember Adrian Peterson at Oklahoma and the year he had and they still talk about it to this day,” Manziel said. “People still remember his freshman year at Oklahoma that was something that was truly spectacular.”
Manziel is second in the nation in total offense with more than 383 yards a game. He leads the SEC in yards rushing a game (98.4), pass completions a game (22.8), scoring per game (9.5) and points responsible for per game (21.5).
His success in what is widely considered the toughest football conference in the country is a big reason why some think his freshman status won’t matter to voters.
“I don’t think there’s any reason not to vote for him, simply because he’s a freshman,” CBS Sports analyst Verne Lundquist said. “He’s put up numbers this year that are astounding. Not only are the stats astounding, but his style of play is so compelling. I would not be surprised if he won, and I think he’s probably earned it.”
Some believe that Manziel could benefit from the fact that he’s not a true freshman, but is in his second full year of college.