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Texas A&M freshman Manziel wins Heisman Trophy

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- What can Johnny Manziel do for an encore after becoming the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy in the award's 78-year history?

How about leading Texas A&M to its first national title since 1939?

"I have to be that guy that starts the motor and starts everything for the run to the national championship next year," Manziel said after he easily outpaced Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o and Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein in the Heisman voting. "That's going to be our team goal."

Manziel, who was dubbed "Johnny Football" by Aggies fans prior to a do-everything season in which he accounted for a school-record 43 total touchdowns and a Southeastern Conference-record 4,600 yards of total offense, collected 2,029 points in the balloting. Te'o took second with 1,706 points while Klein, the third candidate invited to attend the live ceremony at the Best Buy Theatre in Manhattan's Times Square, finished third with 894 points.

Manziel took control of the Heisman race Nov. 10, when he threw for 253 yards and two touchdowns as the Aggies, who are in their first year in the SEC, stunned then-top-ranked Alabama 29-24 in what was the signature win for a program re-emerging into national prominence.

With a win over Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl Jan. 4, the Aggies (10-2) will almost certainly finish in the top 10 in the polls for the first time since 1994.

Manziel, who projected a relaxed and confident air throughout the days leading up to the announcement, looked stunned as his name was announced and appeared to be near tears as he hugged his family members. He mouthed "Whew" as he stepped to the podium and then opened his acceptance speech with another audible sigh.

"I didn't believe it, I almost didn't think that it was real," Manziel said at the Marriott Marquis later. "Such a far-fetched dream of mine, it's just mind-boggling to sit here and thinking that I'm the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner.

"I felt my heart beating out to right here. I was really wondering on TV if you could see my shirt moving. I don't know if anyone caught it."

Manziel's youthful exuberance was on display throughout the press conference, when he said he wanted to put the Heisman "... right next to my bed" and expressed wonderment over 1984 Heisman winner Doug Flutie wanting to talk to him at the ceremony.

Prior to Manziel's victory, the highest finish for a freshman was recorded by Adrian Peterson, who was the runner-up to Matt Leinart in 2004. Only two other freshmen -- Herschel Walker in 1980 and Michael Vick in 1999 -- have finished in the top three in the Heisman balloting.

"Being able to break that barrier is such an honor and so humbling for me, to be the first freshman to win and (to) really make history," Manziel said. "For kids who come out of high school and into college, it doesn't matter if you're a freshman or a true freshman -- I guess that's the next thing that's there to do -- it doesn't matter who you are if you just work hard enough, you have a great group of guys and a great university and great people around you, great things can happen."

Manziel is the sixth consecutive underclassmen to win the award, following in the footsteps of juniors Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton the last two years and sophomores Mark Ingram, Sam Bradford and Tim Tebow in 2009, 2008 and 2007. As a redshirt freshman, Manziel will have at least one more chance to join Archie Griffin (1974-75) as the only two-time winners of the Heisman.

Manziel is the second Texas A&M player to win the award. Running back John David Crow won in 1957, coincidentally by beating out a defensive player, Iowa's Alex Karras. Te'o was hoping to become the record eighth Notre Dame player to win the Heisman while Klein's third-place finish is the second-best in Kansas State history behind Michael Bishop, who was second in 1998.

Manziel won five of the six regions, falling to Te'o only in the midwest, which the Fighting Irish linebacker took by a narrow 315-312 margin. Manziel received 474 first-place votes while Te'o was first on 321 ballots, the second-highest figure for a runner-up behind Paul Giel in 1953.

Manziel was the consensus favorite in the Heisman straw polls, and he seemed at ease with the attention bestowed upon him during a whirlwind week in which he won the Davey O'Brien Award (given to the nation's top quarterback) in Orlando Thursday -- the same day he turned 20 years old -- before jetting to the Big Apple.

In a sign that he'd be the center of attention later in the evening, Manziel was the second player introduced at Saturday's pre-ceremony press conference and sat in between Klein, whom he greeted with a pat on the shoulder as he walked past, and Te'o.

Manziel said Saturday he wasn't nervous at all in anticipation of the ceremony and in fact used his first night in New York City to catch up on sleep.

"This week's been pretty hectic for me, flying all over the place," Manziel said. "So it was nice to sleep until 8 o'clock."
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