Johnny Manziel is no longer going by his birth name, as he has quickly earned the nickname "Johnny Football." After a shocking and impressive victory over Alabama last weekend, many are starting to believe you can put "Heisman Trophy winner" before whichever name you prefer to call him.
The truth is that history is not helping the Texas A&M quarterback in this situation, and there is a higher probability of him going home empty-handed than winning the prestigious award.
I firmly believe Manziel should be a strong factor in the Heisman race and think his chances of winning are good, but given the history of this prestigious trophy, it just isn't going to happen this year.
Freshman players do not win Heisman trophies.
In fact, only three freshmen have ever finished in the top three of the voting (h/t theismanpundit.com).
In other words, voters knew that these first-year players made a strong cases for the hardware, but they were likely snubbed for the simple fact that they were too young.
Herschel Walker, 1980
Herschel Walker rushed for 1,616 yards, scored 16 total touchdowns and averaged 5.9 yards per carry his freshman season as the running back for the Georgia Bulldogs. He set a then-NCAA freshman rushing record and actually became the first true freshman to be named first team All-American.
Not only were these statistics off the charts for a freshman back then, but his contributions helped play a big role in the 1980 national championship victory. The team went ahead and finished the season undefeated and won its second national championship in program history. One of the victories was actually over the South Carolina Gamecocks, who finished the season with an 8-4 record.
Guess who ended up winning the Heisman?
Gamecocks' running back George Rogers, who led the nation in rushing yards (1,781) and had 14 touchdowns (two fewer than Walker).
Michael Vick, 1999
Vick was a freshman quarterback for the Virginia Tech Hokies back in 1999. Despite missing some time due to an ankle injury, he led the country in passing efficiency, setting a freshman record with 180.4. He won the first-ever Archie Griffin Award as the most valuable college football player and led his team to a Big East title and undefeated record, which included a trip to the Sugar Bowl for the national championship.
Vick and company ended up losing the game to the Florida State Seminoles, but they didn't go down quietly, as the freshman quarterback was able to bring his team back from a 21-point deficit. He finished the season with 2,065 passing yards and 585 rushing yards, and he scored 21 total touchdowns.
Senior Wisconsin running back Ron Dayne ended up winning the Heisman trophy instead, despite the Badgers finishing with a 10-2 record, including a loss to an unranked Cincinnati program. He finished the year with 1,834 yards, averaged over six yards a carry and scored 19 touchdowns.
Adrian Peterson, 2004
Peterson is actually the only freshman ever to finish second in the polls, as both Vick and Walker finished third in their respective seasons. As we all know, the Oklahoma Sooners running back was a beast throughout his career, finishing his first season with 1,925 rushing yards and averaging 5.7 yards per touch.
He led the nation with 339 carries and set a freshman record by rushing for over 100 yards in the first nine games of the season. The streak would have likely continued for the entire year if he did not dislocate his shoulder in a game against Texas A&M, forcing him to miss significant playing time the next week against Nebraska.
In 2003, the year before Peterson, Oklahoma averaged only 143 yards on the ground and less than four yards a carry. With just one season of the freshman running back, the Sooners averaged over 200 yards on the ground and nearly five yards a touch.
Instead, USC quarterback Matt Leinart went on to win the Heisman after throwing for 3,322 yards and 33 touchdowns and completing more than 65 percent of his passes. It got even worse for Peterson, as the Trojans went on to play the Sooners in the Orange Bowl for the national championship.
USC destroyed Oklahoma by a score of 55-19, and the Heisman and crystal football went to the Trojans signal-caller.
Johnny Manziel, 2012
Manziel is completing 67.6 percent of his passes and has thrown for 2,780, which is third-best in the SEC. He also has 1,014 rushing yards, which is 25th best in the country, and his 15 rushing touchdowns are good for 11th. The freshman has produced over 400 total yards four times this season, including two contests where he has gone for well over 500.
The first-year starter has racked up these numbers against four ranked teams and three defenses that are currently in the Top Five in college football in total defense (LSU, Alabama and Florida). Manziel has also led his team to an 8-2 record and a Top 10 ranking in the current BCS rankings after knocking off a top ranked Alabama program.
But what makes Johnny Football stand out more than the other guys?
I don't see much when breaking everything down.
Vick, Walker and Peterson all had eye-popping numbers, and all three of their teams either won or reached the national championship. The Aggies won't have a shot at a national title, and Manziel is competing against another dual-threat quarterback in Collin Klein, who likely will be with Kansas State.
Klein also happens to be a senior and is a quarterback who has produced 32 total touchdowns, despite missing a half of football in a game against Oklahoma State.
If the voters had no problem voting against college football players who were ahead of their times, they would likely have no issues picking against a quarterback whose team has lost twice and won't be in the national championship conversation.
Am I saying it's right that freshmen are treated this way? Of course not.
But history shows that young players simply don't win Heisman trophies, and Manziel will have to wait until next season to have a legitimate shot.
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