There were many noteworthy moments that took place in rapid succession after Johnny Manziel’s name was called at Saturday night’s Heisman ceremony in New York City.
Manziel tucked his chin, letting the words to sink in. Texas A&M supporters exploded. Then, much like the 2012 season, he was off and running to shake hands and hug those of importance— finalists Manti Te’o and Collin Klein, Kevin Sumlin, Mike Slive, his mother, his father — before walking up the stairs to accept college athletics’ most prestigious award.
The one thing that didn’t happen, which is quite rare in today’s knee-jerk world of social media anonymity and opinion-driven blather, was complaining. Because there was very little to argue with concerning Manziel’s candidacy. He led nation in touchdowns, finished third in total offense while facing SEC defenses, broke multiple records and had his team playing like the best team in the country at the end of the season.
Did that in and of itself make Texas A&M’s wunderkind the only choice? Not at all. Te’o (Any Given Saturday’s Heisman choice) earned the most first-place votes for a runner-up in history, as his spectacular season, undefeated team and unparalleled storyline undoubtedly stole the attention of some voters.
In the end, there was no clear-cut argument with Manziel or Te’o. Both would have been deserving. We watch and appreciate sports in an all-access bubble where there are few secrets, and both guys delivered on the national stage. Manziel dazzled. Te’o never gave an inch.
The 2012 Heisman Trophy is in deserving hands.
THE FRESHMAN CONUNDRUM
An underclassman has now won the Heisman four times in the past six years, a blatant departure from the rigid, seniors- and juniors-only club of the pre-Tebow era.
Before Tim Tebow took home the trophy in 2007 as a sophomore, no other player had ever won before his junior season. That has changed (for the better) in recent years, but Johnny Football allegedly raised the stakes by becoming the first freshman to win the stiff-arm trophy. It was the storyline many began touting following his win over then-No. 1 Alabama: Will a freshman win the Heisman?
Why are we sincerely surprised, though?
Manziel is a redshirt freshman that arrived in College Station during the spring of 2011, which gave him a full year and a half on campus before he took a college snap. This isn’t some kid fresh off East Texas high school football fields dazzling the college football contingent. He was afforded time.
The only decided difference separating Manziel from past true sophomore winners — Tebow and Alabama’s Mark Ingram — is a limited number of plays. In Tebow’s case, that number is 33. He only received 33 snaps on the field his freshman season before exploding onto the scene in 2007.
Ingram played a lot more as a true freshman, but still remains the youngest Heisman winner in history .
Manziel was remarkable this season, but stop with the “Youth Has Finally Beat The Man” tagline.
WHO ACTUALLY WINS
Last week, Sports Business Journal reported that Baylor estimates Robert Griffin III’s Heisman Trophy was worth $250 million to the university. Luckily for RGIII, his time in college was complete, because he never would have received a red cent of that money under NCAA regulations.
Manziel will not be so fortunate, for, as a reward for his outstanding 2012 season, he’ll get a front row view of the Aggies profiting off his name and likeness for at least one more season before he is draft-eligible. And, when you think about it, Manziel’s height and physical limitations might only hurt his draft stock and improve Texas A&M’s bottom line.
If he stays all four years at Texas A&M, possibly winning another Heisman and a national title, what would the SBJ report those earnings to be? Would they hit $1 billion?
There’s still little secret as to who wins in the grand scheme of things in college athletics. The NCAA, its member schools and all others associated with them continue to profit off the labor of young men and label a “free education” a square deal. It’s not. It’s a lie. Can you think of an education worth $250 million?
Tebow was never compensated for his post-Heisman efforts. Ingram received zero kickbacks in his junior season. Fortunately, their talents allowed them to cash in on NFL paychecks eventually — most NCAA football players are not so fortunate to cash after being exploited.
Argue all you want that Manziel is receiving educational benefits, job training and will profit off of his newfound celebrity in whatever profession he so chooses, but there’s no disagreement on who comes out on top. Every time.