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Johnny History: Texas A&M’s freshman phenom wins the Heisman Trophy

Graham Watson
Dr. Saturday

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(USA Today Sports Images)

Call him Johnny Heisman.

Better yet, call him Johnny History.

Johnny Manziel, the fleet-of-foot quarterback from Texas A&M became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, besting Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o and Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein.

"This is a moment I've dreamed about since I was a kid," Manziel said. "Running around the backyard pretending I was Doug Flutie throwing Hail Marys to my dad."

Manziel wowed fans — and voters — this season with his ability to make plays out of seemingly impossible situations. His first flash of greatness — the one many point to — came in 58-10 win against Arkansas in late September. He scrambled around, went forward, backward, pump faked and then threw a jump pass to a receiver in the corner of the end zone.

That was the beginning of the legend. That's when people knew he was special.

In the spring, Manziel wasn't slated to be Texas A&M's starting quarterback. That prospect seemed even more unlikely when he was arrested in June and charged with disorderly conduct by fighting, failure to identify and having a fake driver's license. His shirtless mugshot made him a brief joke.

But somehow, he overcame all that and excelled when the odds didn't appear to be in his favor. And that's what he did all season. When a play would break down or a defensive lineman was bearing down on him, Manziel improvised and used his instincts, which made him one of the most exciting and unpredictable players to watch.

His popularity hit a fever pitch against Alabama when he used his feet, instincts and A&M's up-tempo offense to take down the nation's No. 1 team. Against the nation's top defense, he completed 24-of-31 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 92 yards.

From that game on, the Heisman was Manziel's to lose.

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(USA Today Sports Images)

Manziel earned 474 of 928 first-place votes. He had 2,029 overall points, which was better than Te'o's 1,706 points and Klein's 894 points. Manziel became the first Texas A&M player to win the coveted bronze statue since running back John David Crow hoisted it in 1957.

He's also the sixth quarterback to win the award in the past seven seasons — third in a row — and the last two guys who won it went on to be selected No. 1 and No. 2 in the respective NFL draft classes.

But Manziel has awhile before he starts thinking of the NFL.

Despite losing, Te'o, who was the nation's most decorated athletes during Thursday's major award night, earned the most points ever by a defense-only player. He had 321 first-place votes, the second-most ever by a runner-up, and made the race incredibly close.

But the night belonged to Manziel, who smiled as his father cried in the audience. To celebrate, he will be immortalized on a billboard in Times Square for at least the next 24 hours. The ad, bought by Texas A&M, reads:

"They call him Johnny Heisman. The 12th Man stands a little taller today as we congratulate Aggie quarterback Johnny Manziel, winner of the 2012 Heisman Trophy."

And he's only a freshman; can't wait to see what he does next.

Added Manziel: "If you work hard enough, if you have great people around you, great things can happen."

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