Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o were selected as the finalists for the 2012 Heisman Trophy. On Monday, ESPN announced the final invitations for the three players to attend the presentation ceremony in New York. Each player has the potential to take home the trophy, setting the stage for possibly the closest race since Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch won it in 2001. Crouch earned only 27 percent of the final vote. Over the next ten seasons, Heisman winner Mark Ingram Jr. would come closest to Crouch’s total after receiving nearly half of the final vote.
Manziel is labeled as the favorite to win the award, and he stands as the closest freshman to nab the prize since Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson finished second to USC Trojans quarterback Matt Leinart in 2004. Manziel, a Texas native, would become the first freshman to ever to win the award, and the first Aggie since running back John David Crow in 1957.
Nicknamed “Johnny Football,” Manziel produced a signature win in Tuscaloosa, Al. against the then number one ranked Crimson Tide. His Heisman campaign took off after the win, and he now stands as the slight favorite amongst the three finalists.
Johnny Football has been a spark for the Aggies all season. He finished the regular season with 3,419 yards passing, 24 touchdowns, nearly 1,200 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns. Fans are in awe at the way the six-foot quarterback uses his athletic ability to make defenders miss. He led Texas A&M to 10 wins and 2 losses on the season, and finished ranked tenth in the polls.
On the Heisman, Manziel attested, “It’s the biggest, most prestigious award in college football. It would definitely be a dream come true.”
The quarterback has been playing football since the age of six and describes his personality as poised, smart, humble, respectful and patient. Texas A&M will play the Oklahoma Sooners in the Cotton Bowl.
Klein was thought as the clear front-runner for the award until Manziel’s late season push. The Kansas State quarterback would become the first player to win the award in school history. Many feel that Klein lost the lead in the race when he threw three interceptions in the Wildcats loss against Baylor. The Wildcats were ranked number one in the polls at the time, and had a chance to reach the national title game.
Klein’s dual-threat style of play allowed him to finish with 2,490 yards passing, 15 touchdowns, 890 yards rushing and 22 touchdowns. His ability to effectively beat defenses with his running and throwing resembles Manziel, but while Klein stands at a solid 6 feet and 5 inches allowing him to run through opponents, Manziel aims to avoid defense with his agility.
Klein led the Wildcats to a record of 11 wins and 1 loss, to go along with a Big 12 conference championship. The team finished seventh in the polls, and won a trip to face the Oregon Ducks in the BCS Fiesta Bowl.
It was also announced Monday that Klein is the winner of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, presented annually to a quarterback who combines on-field success and academic achievement. John C. Unitas Jr., president of The Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Educational Foundation, said of Klein, ”Collin is not just a tremendous athlete and leader on the field, but an MVP off the field as well, who repeatedly has been recognized for his numerous contributions to the community and to the spirit of sportsmanship.”
Manti Te’o has the chance to become the first defensive-only player to win the Heisman award. Te’o was the face of Notre Dame football this season as he led the Irish to a record of 11 wins and zero losses, and a birth in the BCS national championship game against the Alabama Crimson Tide.
In September, Manti tragically lost his girlfriend and grandmother in the same week. The Notre Dame community, along with the rest of the nation, supported Te’o tremendously through the difficult times. Te’o said he became “spiritually strong” following their deaths.
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said of Te’o,”He’s a great student and he’s really been a role model for everybody in our program,” Kelly said. “When you put all of those things together he’s more than just a football player and I’m blessed that I had an opportunity to coach him.”
Te’o finished the season with 103 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 7 interceptions and 5.5 tackles for loss. Monday, he was also awarded the Butkus award as the nation’s top linebacker and ranks as the leader of the toughest defense this season.
There is one main reason why the final vote for the 2012 Heisman will be so close: each of the three finalists stands as the primary reason for the success of their respective teams this season. Since all three players finished with outstanding statistics and led their teams to unbelievable seasons, it presents an equal playing field for final votes. Expect the winner of the 2012 Heisman trophy to receive a percentage of the vote similar to what Eric Crouch did in 2001.