Johnny Manziel: How Freshman's Season Compares to Past Heisman Winners

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistNovember 30, 2012

COLLEGE STATION, TX - NOVEMBER 24:  Johnny Manziel #2 of the Texas A&M Aggies looks to pass during their game against the Missouri Tigers at Kyle Field on November 24, 2012 in College Station, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Johnny Manziel has turned himself from little-known freshman to one of the best players in the country in a matter of months, but is his season really Heisman worthy?

The Texas A&M quarterback is currently one of the favorites for the most prestigious trophy in college football. In a year without a runaway candidate, Manziel's competition is a linebacker (Manti Te'o), a receiver (Marqise Lee) and an unorthodox quarterback (Collin Klein).

However, the season that the Texas native has put together makes him worthy of a Heisman.

Manziel is currently second in the nation behind Baylor's Nick Florence in total offense with 383 total yards per game.

He excels as a passer—his 155.9 passer rating is No. 18 in the nation—and as a rusher where he is third among quarterbacks with 1,181 rushing yards.

His overall statistics put him in rare company, according to ESPN Stats and Information:


Johnny Manziel is 5th FBS player (and first freshman) to accumulate 3,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing in same season #MIZZvsTAMU

— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 24, 2012


He compares favorably to not only the rest of the field this year, but also past winners at the position.

In the past few years, mobile quarterbacks have been the most common choice among voters. Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton, Tim Tebow and Troy Smith make up four of the last six Heisman winners, and they were all solid passers who thrived when they were able to get out of the pocket and run.

Among those players, only Newton had more yards on the ground in a season than Manziel. Of course, the Auburn quarterback had 80 more rushing attempts and as a result averaged almost a yard less per carry.

Manziel has also scored 19 rushing touchdowns, which with one game remaining compares favorably to Tebow's 23 and Newton's 20. 

As a passer, he has been just as good. In this group, only Griffin has thrown for more yards than the 3,419 that the Aggies star has tossed this season.

His 68.3 completion percentage—a ridiculously high number for any freshman—is even better than Sam Bradford in his Heisman-winning season.

In addition to season success, voters always like to look for a "Heisman moment." This is usually one game where the player showed to the world that he is the best in the country.

Griffin had his signature moment in an upset win over No. 5 Oklahoma. The quarterback accounted for 551 of his team's 616 yards in the victory. Mark Ingram had a few big games, but his 246 rushing yards against South Carolina was likely his best.

Reggie Bush famously had 513 all-purpose yards against Fresno State to help seal the now-vacated Heisman in 2005.

Manziel made his mark by defeating No. 1 Alabama on the road. He totaled 345 yards and two touchdowns as he almost single-handedly change the landscape of the college football season.

Despite these impressive numbers, however, the quarterback will have to break two myths before getting the award.

The first one has been proved wrong a number of times in recent years: The Heisman winner needs to be on a top team.

In 2007, Tebow won with a four-loss Florida team. Last year, Robert Griffin's Baylor lost three times. With only two losses and a Top 10 team in the BCS standings, this should not be an issue.

However, the other problem might be harder to overcome. No freshman has ever won the trophy.

A few players have come close, like running backs Herschel Walker and Adrian Peterson. However, no one has been able to get enough votes in their first year.

Despite the history, it should not matter what year the players are in college. The award goes to the most outstanding player in college football, which has nothing to do with age.

No sophomore had ever won either until Tim Tebow took the title in 2007. Sam Bradford and Mark Ingram then followed suit.

In basketball, Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis have both won the Naismith Award for the top college player in the country as freshmen. It is about time that football follows the example.

Johnny Manziel has put together an outstanding season. Based on how his stats compare to the winners of the past, there is no reason to believe he should not be the latest winner of the Heisman trophy.



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