College football’s regular season is coming to an end and several championship games will be played this weekend to decide the fates of those heading to the BCS bowl games. This season has brought its fair share of excitement and on Dec. 8 we will know who is the best player in all of college football when the 2012 Heisman trophy is awarded to that lucky athlete.
To understand the prestige behind winning college football’s most recognizable award you must know who the previous recipients are. This year’s winner would join the likes of Robert Griffin III, who currently plays for the Washington Redskins and is their starting quarterback in his first season. Cam Newton won in 2010 and had a record-breaking rookie season in the National Football League. Mark Ingram, Sam Bradford and Tim Tebow won as sophomores (Redshirt sophomore in Bradford’s case) and the three are currently active in the NFL. Not so recently, the late Ernie Davis won the Heisman in 1961, his senior year at Syracuse University. Understand that this is college football’s most prestigious and recognizable award.
According to ESPN’s “Experts’ Poll,” this year’s candidates are Johnny “Football” Manziel of Texas A&M, Manti Te’o of Notre Dame, Collin Klein of Kansas State, Braxton Miller of Ohio State, Marqise Lee of the University of Southern California and Kenjon Barber of the University of Oregon.
Johnny “Football” is Texas A&M’s starting quarterback in just his freshman season. Manziel has accumulated exactly 4,600 yards this season, which accounts for the most total yards in a season by a player in the Southeastern Conference’s. The last two players to do so were Tim Tebow and Cam Newton and both went on to win that year’s Heisman Trophy. However, neither of these two were freshman and neither threw more than eight interceptions. Both had higher quarterback ratings than Manziel’s 155.9, with Tebow at 172.5 and Newton at 182.0. Newton also lead his team, Auburn, to a national championship that year.
Now, a freshman has never won the Heisman and this is not the year that history should change. The Heisman is something that players strive for from their early days in the sport. There should be no rush to award it to an athlete who has only produced numbers for one season. There is no reason why Manziel’s performance this season should guarantee him the trophy. His 4,600 total yards is impressive, but a QB rating of 155.9 leaves him 18th in all of college football. I’m not impressed. The freshman is not leading in any category for passing this year. For a freshman, his numbers are impressive, but not impressive enough when compared to his peers.
I’m sorry Johnny “Football,” it’s just not your year. Come back next year and show why you deserve it. There’s a reason why no freshman has ever won the Heisman Trophy: they aren’t proven yet. Players need to prove that they are going to return year after year and perform at the same level as the year before, something difficult to do, but something important. As a freshman, Manziel has potentially three more years to show off his skills. The most impressive feat from Manziel this year is upsetting Alabama on Nov. 10 at Alabama.
So who should win this year’s Heisman? Senior Collin Klein has lead Kansas State this season to be ranked sixth in the nation with a game to play against Texas tomorrow. His numbers are similar to Manziel’s, other than total yards, which leads me to rule him out of the running. Great senior season, just not strong enough. He’ll make a career in the NFL if he chooses to do so.
Braxton Miller? The sophomore quarterback from the shunned Ohio State program has lead his team to an impressive 12-0 season, despite the fact that they really have nothing to play for after the NCAA banned them from bowl competition. Ohio State has not been in the spotlight because of this, a major factor in why Miller will not win the trophy.
How about Manti Te’o? The senior captain of then No. 1, undefeated, Notre Dame Fighting Irish has helped lead his team to this year’s BCS championship bowl game. He has seven interceptions, tying him for second in the NCAA, leaving him one behind Fresno State’s safety, Phillip Thomas. So far in 2012, Te’o has racked up 101 total tackles, 46 of which were solo. He has two sacks as well. He leads the defense on and off the field. The athlete originally committed to USC, Notre Dame’s bitter rival, and had a change of heart on national signing day when he chose to instead sign with the Fighting Irish.
On one September day, Te’o learned that both his grandmother and girlfriend had died. The Saturday after he had heard the heartbreaking news, Te’o was in Michigan leading his team against Michigan State. Te’o had 12 tackles and a fumble recovery, allowing Notre Dame to win. The next game was in South Bend, Indiana against Michigan. The linebacker had two interceptions. Notre Dame won on the day his girlfriend was buried in Hawaii.
If the senior’s stats do not impress you, then his story should. To not only play, but to perform on the national stage and do an exceptional job after losing two important loved ones in his life is impressive. He brings an intensity to the field that coaches long to have on their team. He is a true leader, and most deserving of the 2012 Heisman Trophy. Manti Te’o is college football’s most impressive athlete.
Te’o has led the Fighting Irish to its first undefeated regular season since 1988, which was the last time they were ranked No. 1. The Irish are expected to play the winner of the SEC championship game, between Georgia and Alabama, in the BCS Championship game on Jan. 7, 2013.