Johnny Manziel: Ranking His Season Against Past Freshman Heisman Candidates

Mike Shiekman@TheRealShiekFeatured ColumnistDecember 8, 2012

COLLEGE STATION, TX - NOVEMBER 24:  Johnny Manziel #2 of the Texas A&M Aggies runs for a third quarter touchdown 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 had one amazing season. Factor in that he is only a freshman, and that launches him into a higher echelon of freshmen marvels.

According to the Heisman straw poll, Manziel will become the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. He has made a convincing case after that November day in Tuscaloosa.

But is it the greatest freshman Heisman candidacy of all time? Let’s open up the vault and rank the best freshman years in college football.

3. Herschel Walker, 1980

If not for freshman bias against first years in the Heisman voting, Walker would’ve certainly been the first.

The Georgia frosh led the Bulldogs to an undefeated record and the national championship, finishing among the nation’s leaders in rushing yards and touchdowns. Also, most of the Heisman ballots were cast in late November, before Walker broke Tony Dorsett’s freshman rushing record.

George Rogers took the majority of the votes and the trophy.

2. Manziel, 2012

“Johnny Football” certainly sports the numbers to boot any freshman memory: more than 4,300 yards and 43 total touchdowns. Breaking Cam Newton’s record for total yards marks an impressive accomplishment in the spread era, especially because Newton’s Heisman year has been held in such high regard.

That the historic season happened in the SEC and not the Big 12, though, may be most impressive because it was against Alabama, LSU and Florida, not defensively inept Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Baylor.

In comparison to Adrian Peterson, though, he put up spread quarterback-like numbers in an offense where he had to split touches with his Heisman-winning quarterback.

1. Adrian Peterson, 2004

There’s something to be said about a running back who needs half as many touches and an equal handprint on the game result. The first freshman AP All-American rightfully had the greatest first year ever, by this writer’s account.

Peterson came on the scene as the top running back in the nation and did not disappoint. If it weren’t for his QB Jason White stealing his votes, Peterson may had been the first freshman to win the Heisman. His numbers were so impressive that even old-school voters had their heads turned.

He took the full rushing load at Oklahoma and carried it like he was a senior, racking up 100 yards in all 12 contests, not to mention 225- and 249-yard performances in marquee games against Texas and Oklahoma.

If not for quarterback bias in the BCS era, Peterson’s freshman season would be regarded in the college football pantheon as one of the greatest Heisman campaigns ever.


Mike Shiekman is a Breaking News Writer for Bleacher Report. Argue with his selections on Twitter @TheRealShiek.