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It’s time for fresh(man) approach to Heisman Trophy

Published: Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012 11:25 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — Johnny Manziel will make history Saturday night when he wins the Heisman Trophy. For the second straight year, a kid from Texas will hoist the coveted trophy, and for the first time, a freshman will stand as the best player in college football.

At least for the first time in the eyes of Heisman voters. There was a time when those eyes were more trained on older players, but I’m hopeful that Manziel’s ascension will change those outdated perceptions.

Sometimes people get too hung up on the age of football players. Darrell Royal famously said, “If a dog will bite you when it’s grown, it will bite you as a pup.” Manziel did not play like someone without game experience. He embraced the obstacle that was his inexperience, and he did not shy away from big challenges.

When I consider which player should win the Heisman, I look at three areas: numbers, impact and the eye test. Manziel has the numbers, with an SEC-record 4,600 yards of total offense. His impact can be summed up in A&M’s 10-2 record and its program-changing upset of defending national champion Alabama, along with the most popular nickname in college football. As for the eye test, few players leaped off the screen like Manziel did this year. It took me back to Michael Vick’s days at Virginia Tech. You just couldn’t wait to see what he would do with the ball.

Nowhere in my criteria did I mention classification, because Manziel shouldn’t be labeled or restricted by how many snaps he’s taken in college football. If anything, his winning the Heisman Trophy would remove the freshman stigma from future Heisman campaigns. Herschel Walker (1980), Michael Vick (1999) and Adrian Peterson (2004) turned in tremendous debuts, but all lost to upperclassmen. The timing couldn’t be better, and it’s about time a freshman with Manziel’s credentials be considered the favorite.

The freshman argument is a silly one, especially in Manziel’s case. He’s in his second year on campus, which would make him a sophomore in the classroom. Try this one on for size: Had he entered just one game for Ryan Tannehill last season and taken just one little snap in mop-up duty, he would be classified as a sophomore today. So one snap makes that much of a difference? Actually, it makes no difference. Manziel is a talent for all ages.

The Heisman should be given to the best player, not to the best upperclassman.