Three finalists have been invited to the 78th Heisman Memorial Trophy presentation Saturday in New York, and one of them will make history.
By BLAIR KERKHOFF
The Kansas City Star
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel would become the first freshman; Notre Dame linebacker Manti Teo would be the second defensive player, and Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein would become the first winner from his school.
Recent straw polls give Manziel a slight lead over Teo for college footballs most coveted trophy, but its close, and regional voting may determine the outcome.
• School: Texas A&M
• Year: Redshirt freshman
• Position: Quarterback
• Why hell win it: He has the coolest nickname Johnny Football and is the most dynamic of the finalists, and Heisman voters have loved that kind of player during the past two years. Remember Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton? Plus, Manziel has the eye-popping numbers: 4,600 total yards, which surpasses Newtons SEC standard. Manziel is responsible for 21.5 points per game by rushing or passing touchdowns and had 70 plays of 20 or more yards, 10 more than anybody else in college football. Oh, and he comes complete with a Heisman moment. Maybe not a moment as much as a day, Nov. 10. Thats when the Manziel-led Aggies defeated top-ranked Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Manziel is also the Davey OBrien award winner as the nations best QB and five of the last six OBrien winners have also won the Heisman.
• Why he wont: Manziel is a redshirt freshman, and no freshman or redshirt freshman has won the trophy. One, Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson, finished second in 2004. Such reluctance has melted away over the years, hasnt it?
• Texas A&Ms best Heisman finish: RB John David Crow won in 1957.
• Quote: The best thing I saw him do on the practice field was the center on the scout team snapped the ball over his head. He ran back, (and) while the ball was rolling on the ground, he jumped up in the air while he scooped it up, turned around and completed a pass. After that moment, I was like, This kid is special. I feel like he deserves the Heisman, Chiefs running back and former Manziel teammate Cyrus Gray.
• Non seniors and juniors who finished first or second since 2004:
|Year||Player, year, school, pos.|
|2004||Adrian Peterson, Fr., Oklahoma RB|
|2007||Tim Tebow, So., Florida QB*|
|2008||Sam Bradford, So. Oklahoma QB*|
|2009||Mark Ingram, So. Alabama RB*|
|2010||Andrew Luck, So., Stanford QB|
• School: Notre Dame
• Year: Senior
• Position: Linebacker
• Why hell win it: Best player on the top-ranked team is usually a slam dunk for the Heisman, if that player is a quarterback or running back. But linebacker? On a team defined by defense, Teo is a one-man wrecking crew. He has already been chosen winner of the Nagurski Award as the nations top defensive player and Butkus Award for top linebacker. Teo has eye-popping stats: 103 total tackles (42 more than the next Notre Dame player) and seven interceptions. The picks ranked third nationally and first among linebackers. Teo came up with huge interceptions in the season-defining victory at Oklahoma, and led the goal-line stand against Stanford. Notre Dame leads the nation in scoring defense at 10.3 and is the only team in the nation that hasnt surrendered a touchdown drive of longer than 75 yards.
• Why he wont: Heisman plays favorites with positions. The only defensive player to win the award is Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson in 1997, and he returned kicks and caught a pass occasionally. The only top five finishers in voting among defenders since Woodson were Nebraska tackle Ndamukong Suh (fourth in 2009) and LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu (fifth last year).
• Notre Dames best Heisman finish: First, seven times. Last won by WR Tim Brown in 1987.
• Quote: He raises the level of accountability among his teammates and when you have kind of energy and that kind of personality, it rubs off on everybody, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly.
• Defensive players in top four Heisman voting since 1980:
|Year||Player, school, pos.||Finish|
|1980||Hugh Green, Pittsburgh DE||2nd|
|1986||Brian Bosworth, Oklahoma LB||4th|
|1991||Steve Emtman, Washington DT||4th|
|1992||Marvin Jones, Florida State LB||4th|
|1997||Charles Woodson, Michigan CB||1st|
|2009||Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska DT||4th|
• School: Kansas State
• Year: Senior
• Position: Quarterback
• Why hell win it: Cmon, one bad game and hes out of it? Thats what the straw polls indicate, but perhaps theres a silent majority out there who overlooked Kleins three-pick game at Baylor and credited him with being the best leader in college football. Klein was responsible for 37 touchdowns this season. He has rushed for a touchdown in 11 straight games, the longest streak in college football. And hes a great story, lightly recruited out of high school, got on the field initially for K-State as a wide receiver and has become only the second K-State player after Michael Bishop in 1998 to become a Heisman finalist from his school.
• Why he wont: That Baylor game cost Klein in the polls, and it happened late in the season. The Heisman loves upper-class quarterbacks, but this is a year where a freshman and defensive player might have caught the voters fancy.
• Kansas States best finish: Second by QB Michael Bishop in 1998.
• Quote: Maybe it was one of his goals way down the line, but with Coach Snyder, everyone thinks so short term. You meet all your short-term goals, and hes been doing that and increasing his short-term goals to where hes at now Hes really got everybody associated with the program, players, coaches, fans supporters of all types behind him and believing in him, Chiefs defensive back and former Kansas State teammate Tysyn Hartman.
• Big 12 Heisman winners:
|Year||Player, school, pos.|
|1998||Ricky Williams, Texas RB|
|2001||Eric Crouch, Nebraska QB|
|2003||Jason White, Oklahoma QB|
|2008||Sam Bradford, Oklahoma QB|
|2011||Robert Griffin III, Baylor QB|
The Stars Randy Covitz contributed to this report
To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/BlairKerkhoff.