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November 29, 2012
Freshman or not, Manziel is college football's best player
photo: Brandon Jones, TexAgs
Manziel made history with his numbers; now he might do it with a Heisman win.
Anybody can dance. But few moonwalked like Michael Jackson.

Lots of people play football. But few dazzle like Johnny Manziel.

Texas A&M’s freshman phenomenon has compiled incredible statistics in a spectacular 2012 campaign. He’s only the fifth player ever to rush for 1,000 yards and pass for 3,000 in the same season.

He’s compiled 4,600 yards of total offense, which is more than Auburn’s Cameron Newton accumulated in his Heisman-winning 2010 season. It’s more than Florida’s Tim Tebow amassed in his Heisman-winning ’07 season.

Andrew Kilzer Wise pundits argue that Manziel's one-of-a-kind accomplishments are all the more impressive exactly because he's a freshman. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"left","Size":"large","Caption":"Wise pundits argue that Manziel\u0027s one-of-a-kind accomplishments are all the more impressive exactly because he\u0027s a freshman.","MediaItemID":25211}
He’s broken Archie Manning’s SEC single-game total offense record — twice.

Manziel deserves to win the Heisman Trophy on those gaudy statistics alone. But even more impressive than those numbers is the manner in which he compiled them.

He plays football like Michael Jackson danced … with a style and flair that few else have. The kid is a human highlight reel. In every game he’s made at least one play in which he’s scrambled away from what appears a sure loss of yardage and turned it into a big gain.

But nobody cares what sports writers and broadcasters think. Colleagues and competitors are best equipped to critique. They know what it’s like to play with or against Manziel. Their view is much better than that from the press box.

So, it speaks volumes that several of Manziel’s contemporaries have endorsed him for the Heisman Trophy over other candidates like Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o or Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein.

“I’m not as impressed (with Te’o) as I am with Johnny Manziel,” Texas A&M linebacker Sean Porter said.

Of course, Porter could be dismissed as biased because he’s Manziel’s teammate.

But then, LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery, one of the best in the nation at his position, also raved about Manziel.

“Johnny Football is nothing to play with. He’s not,” Montgomery said in a now famous YouTube video. “My hat’s off to Johnny Football. If there’s anybody that should win the Heisman … Sam Montgomery’s vote would be for Johnny Football.”

Polls and survey indicate that most of the Heisman Trophy votes will be cast for Manziel.

Manziel leads ESPN’s Heisman Experts Poll. He leads in polls conducted by Sports Illustrated, leads in polls conducted by Scripps-Howard New Services and Heismanpundits.com.

Jason McConnell, Aggieland Illustrated After A&M's win at Alabama, Heisman voter Andy Staples stated, "If the award is for the most outstanding football player ... then there's no question who that is. It's Johnny Manziel." {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"right","Size":"large","Caption":"After A&M\u0027s win at Alabama, Heisman voter Andy Staples stated, \"If the award is for the most outstanding football player ... then there\u0027s no question who that is. It\u0027s Johnny Manziel.\"","MediaItemID":24166}
After Manziel accounted for five touchdowns in last week’s 59-29 victory over Missouri, Chris Huston of Heismanpundits.com wrote: “Simply put, by virtue of his record breaking performance this season, the fabulous dual-threat quarterback has all-but-clinched the 2012 Heisman Trophy, which means he’s set to become the first freshman in the 78 years of the award to be so honored.”

There really is no strong argument against Manziel.

The 4,600 yards he’s accumulated in 12 games exceeds the yardage that nine of the past 10 Heisman-winning quarterbacks totaled in the same number of games.

Last year Baylor’s Robert Griffin III rolled up 4,642 yards in 12 games. But he did that in the defensive-deficient Big 12, which in 2011 had one team ranked among the nation’s top 50 in total defense.

Texas A&M plays in the Southeastern Conference, which is well known for its strong defensive teams. Imagine the statistics Manziel could have compiled if Texas A&M had remained in the Big 12.

In the SEC Manziel faced three of the nation’s top 10 ranked defensive units — No. 1 Alabama, No. 5 Florida and No. 9 LSU. The highest ranked defense A&M would have faced if it remained in the Big 12 is No. 39 Texas Tech.

Had Manziel faced Big 12 defenses, he’d likely have accumulated more than 5,000 yards — and that’s a conservative estimate.

Never mind numbers, though.

Players like Montgomery say more than numbers can.

“Heisman …” Montgomery said. “Give it to him.”
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