Johnny Manziel: Texas A&M Gunslinger Bringing Much-Needed Hype to Heisman Race

Steven CookFeatured Columnist IVNovember 13, 2012

TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 10:  Quarterback Johnny Manziel #2 of the Texas A&M Aggies celebrates after a touchdown during the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 10, 2012 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)
Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

In a Heisman Trophy race that has lacked flair and highlight-reel performances thus far during the 2012 college football slate, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel has finally brought us just what we wanted—and then some.

This much was assured by the end of a monumental upset Saturday night, when the Aggies went into the home of the nation's best team—the Alabama Crimson Tide, maybe you've heard of them—and ripped out their heart as well as their stranglehold on the sport.

This came in their first season in the nation's top conference and with a new coach, mind you.

No, they didn't do it with an elite defense and a plethora of playmakers. No, they didn't do it with a historic comeback led by a seasoned quarterback who has been there before.

They did it with a redshirt freshman nicknamed Johnny Football.

Manziel's 18 touchdowns and six interceptions don't jump off the page. But his 15 rushing scores and 1,014 rushing yards do.

If you choose your Heisman Trophy winners distinctly off the statsheet, go ahead and cross Johnny Football off your list. But stats don't win college football games, playmakers and plays do. And that's exactly what Manziel is and does. 

Coming into the season, Heisman aficionados were hoping that contenders such as West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith would blister through the season and offer up that signature performance that we all search for in Heisman races. But no contender has offered that type of performance—until Saturday in Tuscaloosa.  

Manziel doesn't tower above opposing defenses; in fact, he's often swamped beneath them at 6'1" and 200 pounds. But what he lacks in size, he more than makes up for in exciting play and unique execution.

All too often in the Aggies' win against the then-top-ranked Crimson Tide, Manziel would seem doomed during a play only to turn it into a huge gain or a touchdown.

The perfect example of this was early on in the red zone when Johnny Football was pressured, bobbled the football significantly and immediately turned around to find receiver Ryan Swope in the end zone for a 10-yard score.

The play that may become the signature moment of Manziel's Heisman campaign can be seen below.

A defense that was impenetrable for seemingly the last half-decade was exposed by an undersized 19-year-old dual-threat quarterback. 

Don't like to vote for Heisman Trophy candidates that aren't in the national title chase? Look at the details. A&M's only two losses were to No. 7 Florida and No. 8 LSU by a combined eight points.

Then, look at the national title contenders and their best players. Alabama and Oregon both lack a player who has taken over the Heisman conversation. 

Kansas State and Notre Dame each have their contenders in Collin Klein and Manti Te'o, and a solid resume can be built for each player. But it's obvious that neither player has had the type of signature performance that Manziel displayed Saturday with an improbable win over Alabama.

Perhaps Johnny Football didn't take over the Heisman Trophy race with the Aggies' road win over the Crimson Tide Saturday, but he surely injected some more interest into the race. And that's what we all wanted from the start. 


- Follow me on Twitter for more college football craziness