Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is the favorite to win this year's Heisman Trophy. As a redshirt freshman, Manziel took the college football world by storm and led the Aggies to a surprising 10-2 record in their first season in the SEC.
If Manziel wins the Heisman Trophy, it will be the first time in history it has been awarded to a freshman. However, there is speculation that many voters will refuse to vote for Johnny Manziel because he is a freshman and will have more opportunities to win in the future.
If voters are thinking this way, they could be badly mistaken. Considering all the elements surrounding this season for Manziel, it appears to be his best and only shot at winning the prestigious award.
For Johnny Football, it's now or never.
There is no questioning Manziel's unique ability to beat defenses as a runner or passer. But he was also the beneficiary of some major factors he won't have in any other season.
First, Manziel was fortunate to play behind two of the best offensive tackles in the country. Jake Matthews and Luke Joeckel were regarded by many as the best tackle tandem in college football, with Joeckel recently being awarded the Outland Trophy as the nation's top interior lineman.
Although they are both juniors, Matthews and Joeckel are both projected as first-round picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, and there is a good chance they will skip their senior seasons in College Station. If both depart for the NFL, Manziel will be running for his life next year instead of running for touchdowns.
Another factor Johnny Football won't have on his side next season is the element of surprise. He started the year as an unknown redshirt freshman who possessed some intriguing athletic ability. He was facing defensive coordinators who were unfamiliar with him and his skill set, and there wasn't much gametape to use.
That won't be the case any longer.
You can bet Nick Saban, Kirby Smart, Ellis Johnson, John Chavis and other coaches in the SEC will spend some quality time studying Manziel in the offseason and finding the weaknesses in his game. Combine defenses scheming for him with the added national scrutiny he will receive after this incredible first year, and expectations will be unbelievably high for Manziel.
And for those thinking that if Manziel doesn't win the Heisman Trophy this year he'll have a few more years to get it, his career might not turn out that way.
After this season, Manziel will be two years out of high school—meaning he would only have one more year before being eligible for the NFL Draft. If he has to deal with scouts, media and coaches poking holes in his game over the next three years in college, he might make the most of his opportunity and get to the NFL as quickly as he can.
Texas A&M fans are probably dreaming about Manziel lighting up the scoreboard in College Station over the next three seasons. They should cherish him while they can because he may not be around much longer.
And Manziel should do the same when he attends the Heisman Trophy presentation at the Best Buy Theatre in New York City on Saturday night. He should enjoy the moment and realize what an accomplishment it is if he wins...because it might be his only opportunity to do it.