The 78th winner of the award that signifies the best college football player of the current season is the first freshman to capture that honor.
Two days after his 20th birthday, “Johnny Football” lifted the 13.5 inch tall and 25 pound statue in the air, which signified his historic recognition.
The highest a freshman placed in the Heisman voting in the 77 previous elections was third, Michael Vick (1999), Herschel Walker (1981) and Clint Castleberry (1942).
The 20-year-old described his reaction when hearing his name announced as the winner, “I’s such a far-fetched dream of mine, I just didn’t believe it.” His mother was in tears and his father was wiping his eyes as they, in the same room, heard his name called. After reciting a litany of thanks, the young man spoke of the former Heisman winners standing in back of him, “I always wanted to be in a fraternity, now I’m in the most prestigious one.”
Manziel was the second Heisman victor representing Texas A&M. The other Aggie was John David Crow, the winner in 1957. In a meeting with the media on Friday, the current freshman spoke of the importance of representing his school, “I just try to represent my school in the best way possible and make them proud.”
Before this season began, Manziel was one of three competing to become the starting quarterback for the Aggies. His arrest after a street altercation in Texas was a setback that he had to work hard to overcome. Of the incident, the Texan explained to reporters on Saturday, “That incident has changed me, made me a much better person.”
His candidacy for the Heisman was not taken seriously until the 10th week of the season when the freshman led A&M to a 29-24 upset win over Alabama, then ranked No. 1 in the nation.
When asked if he had anything left to look for after winning the Heisman in his first season of collegiate football competition, Manziel responded in the affirmative, “Winning the Cotton Bowl and [next year] I have to be the guy that runs everything toward the national championship.”
A very close second was Manti Te’o of Notre Dame. He received the third highest vote total of a Heisman runner-up, 1,706, to 2,029 for Manziel.
A victory for Te’o would have made him the first purely defensive player to be a Heisman winner. Charles Woodson of Michigan, the 1997 winner, played on both the defense and on special teams. Te’o, not only compiled such impressive statistics as seven interceptions and 103 tackles, but was a leader on the field of the top-ranked and potential national champions Irish.
His superlative play this year earned him the nod in several in several prestigious college football awards given this week: Bednarik Award, Butkus Award, Lombardi Award, Maxwell Award, Nagurski Award and the Walter Camp Player of the Year.