Johnny Heisman
Johnny Heisman
2012-12-09 07:30:00

Greg Tepper, briefly, on the growing legend of Johnny Manziel.

 By Greg Tepper
 DCTF Associate Editor

Using the word "historic" to describe is an overused, often trite literary mechanism in sports journalism. People seem to be confused that in order for something to be truly historic, it has to be both noteworthy and history-making.

But the word "historic" isn't strong enough for the story of Johnny Manziel, the Texas A&M quarterback who became the first freshman in history to win the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night. In fact, this is perhaps the time to let loose with the hyperbole, since it all fits.

By now, you know Johnny Manziel's numbers. The Kerrville Tivy alum racked up 4,600 yards of total offense, an SEC record. He accounted for 43 touchdowns, either through the air or on the ground. He became the first freshman in NCAA history to throw for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in the same season.

But the numbers only tell part of the story. Manziel has been on the radar of Texas football fans for a while, from the days that he was lighting up the scoreboard at Kerrville Tivy. His senior year was so spectacular -- throwing for 3,609 yards and 45 touchdowns (with a 65-percent completion rate to boot) while rushing for 1,674 yards and 30 touchdowns -- that he was named DCTF's Gridiron Legends High School Player of the Year.

After a late switch of commitment from Oregon to Texas A&M, Manziel didn't see the field during his first tumultuous year, which saw him both lose his head coach in Mike Sherman and find himself in trouble with the law, a June 2012 arrest for his involvement in a fight and passing off a fake ID.

In short, just six months ago, there were a lot of predictions you could have made about Johnny Manziel, but "first freshman Heisman Trophy winner" wasn't among them.

But in August -- just weeks before the start of the season -- new coach Kevin Sumlin named Manziel the starting quarterback, beating out Jameill Showers and Matt Joeckel. Here's what I wrote back then:

My first reaction is that Manziel is an almost perfect fit for Sumlin and offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury’s wide-open Air Raid offense. It’s similar to the scheme he played in at Kerrville Tivy, though I would not expect to see Manziel running as much as he did in high school. For one, SEC defenses will be a lot less forgiving to that than San Antonio-area high school defenses; for another, the Kingsbury-style Air Raid tends to supplant runs with short passes.


What’s Manziel’s ceiling? The more and more I think about it, I’m drawn to the comparison of another Texas-bred quarterback who played under Kevin Sumlin: Case Keenum. Coming out of Abilene Wylie, Keenum’s top quality was his lethal accuracy, much like Manziel. Both have a big arm and excellent touch on the deep ball (though I’d give the slight edge on the deep ball to Keenum, who threw one of the prettiest I’ve ever seen). They’re about the same size, and they’ll be operating under the same scheme.

So, ceiling for Manziel: a more mobile Case Keenum. That’s pretty darn good.

(As an aside: I guess running the ball worked out a little better than I thought it would, huh?)

And now here's Manziel, a Heisman Trophy winner as a freshman and as bright a future as he has a past. And he's a testament to the indisputable greatness of football in Texas. Manziel becomes the eighth Texas college player to win the Heisman -- joining Texas' Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams, Texas A&M's John David Crow, Houston's Andre Ware, SMU's Doak Walker, TCU's Davey O'Brien and Baylor's Robert Griffin III.

Beyond that, Manziel also joins the growing list of Texas high school football players to go on to win the Heisman, which also includes Notre Dame's Tim Brown and Oklahoma's Billy Sims.

In essence, Johnny Manziel is everything that is football in Texas: a kid from San Antonio who rose to greatness, had his trials and tribulations, and ultimately came out on top. Isn't that what we love about football here in the Lone Star State? Isn't that the Texas football story?

And he's only just begun to make history.

We'll have much, much more on Johnny Manziel's truly historic achievement both on and in our upcoming Winter Edition, but for now:

Congratulations to a true Texas history-maker.

Greg Tepper is the associate editor of Dave Campbell's Texas Football and

He can be reached via e-mail, via Twitter (@Tepper) and via the DCTF Facebook page.

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