"Johnny Football" has official taken the next step toward becoming a legend.
The Heisman Trust announced its finalists on Monday night, and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel will be one of three Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) players in New York at the ceremony honoring college football's most outstanding player.
The freshman signal-caller for the Aggies will be joined by Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o and Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein.
Just making it to New York is an honor, but doing it as a freshman is truly remarkable—especially considering the Aggies underwent a coaching change and the switch to the SEC in 2012.
Manziel shouldn't be happy "just being there," because there's no doubt that he deserves the honor.
So what are Manziel's chances?
He's not getting a lot of help from the Midwest: All four voters who work for The Oklahoman selected Te'o No. 1 on their ballots, and three of the four picked Manziel third behind Te'o and Klein.
Nothing like a little love from the former conference, right?
But despite the lack of love from the state up north, Manziel still holds a commanding lead in the poll of confirmed voters by StiffArmTrophy.com.
The website, which has correctly projected every Heisman Trophy race since 2002, currently has Manziel with twice as many first-place votes as Te'o and running circles around Klein and the rest of the field.
There also appears to be a big gap between the top three and everybody else, according to ESPN's Chris Fowler:
FYI, when #Heisman trust invites only 3 finalists, it means there is a significant gap between 3rd & 4th. typical to have 4 or 5 in NYC— Chris Fowler (@cbfowler) December 4, 2012
That's also good news for Manziel. He started out as just another anonymous freshman, but the combination of his dual-threat ability and the exposure he received by playing in the SEC earned him the necessary attention to vault to the top of the Heisman race.
There's no question that Manziel deserves it.
The season he has posted is even more impressive than the ones put together by recent dual-threat quarterbacks Robert Griffin III in 2011, Cam Newton in 2010 and Tim Tebow in 2007.
Manziel is also going to benefit from the fact that the apprehension some voters have toward voting for a freshman should be mitigated by others who struggle to vote for a defensive player. Simply put, Manziel's primary competition is Te'o, and he's fighting a similar fight.
At this point, it's no contest.
That should add even more intrigue to the 2013 Cotton Bowl matchup versus Oklahoma, as Johnny Football will officially kick off his campaign to repeat as a Heisman winner against a Sooners defense that ranks 44th in the country in total defense (380 YPG).
The 2012 Heisman Trophy should—and will—be presented to Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.