Forget "Johnny Football." Though the nickname still stands as one of the best in college football, Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel earned a fresh moniker that’s a bit more fitting this past Saturday in New York City: "Call Him Johnny Heisman." That's what the massive billboard installed in Times Square read, purchased by Texas A&M to hype the freshman phenom's chances at claiming the coveted bronze stiff-armer. His sensational ascent from redshirt freshman in College Station to Heisman Trophy winner in the Big Apple is amazing in itself, but then consider the fact that he earned the Aggies starting QB spot a mere two weeks prior to the season. That's the sort of precociousness that earns you two iconic nicknames and etches your name into the tablets of college football history.
It took 78 years, but Manziel bucked the trend and became the first freshman ever to win the Heisman Trophy. Seniors dominated until the 1980s, and then it became regular for juniors to win. Adrian Petersen came close as a freshman in 2004, but lost out to USC QB Matt Leinart, and In 2007 Tim Tebow broke the sophomore seal. Freshman just didn't win. That is, until Johnny
Football Heisman came along. Manziel forced the hands of voters by barraging defenses early on with his arm and legs, and then stunned the nation by crippling the fearsome Alabama Crimson Tide defense. From there he led A&M to a 10-2 record,threw for 3,419 yards and 24 touchdowns, ran for 1,181 yards and 19 touchdowns, and became the first freshman and first SEC player to throw for 3,000 yards and run for 1,000 in a season. Johnny Heisman, folks.
Manziel is just the second Aggie to claim the Heisman after John David Crow in 1957. Manziel earned 474 first-place votes and 2,029 points overall to beat standout Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o and Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein, but even before the trophy presentation was over another goal was in the mind of the human highlight reel. Manziel and the rest of the Aggies had their sights locked in on Arlington, Texas, where the Aggies are set to battle the No. 11 Oklahoma Sooners (10-2) in the 77th Cotton Bowl Classic on Friday, January 4th at Cowboys Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m., so get your Cotton Bowl tickets now and be there for what's sure to be a game for the ages.
Johnny Football will be the eighth Heisman winner to play in the Cotton Bowl and the first since 1999. The Aggies will make their first showing as a member of the SEC, with their last Cotton Bowl showing being a 2011 defeat to LSU. Coming out of the Big 12 Conference, this will be the Sooners’ second Cotton Bowl, having defeated Arkansas in 2002. The last time OU and Texas A&M met was last year’s 41-25 Sooners victory, and OU leads the all-time series 19 to 11, so revenge is certainly on A&M's mind. With Manziel leading the charge and coming into the Classic on a five-game winning streak, smart money bets this time around things won’t be so lopsided in the Sooners’ favor.
And the plot thickens. The Heisman winner isn’t the only top national quarterback in store for this thriller, as Oklahoma’s Landry Jones, OU’s all-time passing leader, is sure to come out gunning and ready to play. Early on it was Jones whose name was mentioned as a Heisman candidate, and though the season didn’t turn out exactly as hoped, he still has the talent to make to take over. And he'll surely be looking to raise his stock. On the sidelines, the a game of minds will add to the intrigue, as A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin was former offensive coordinator under head coach Bob Stoops at Oklahoma, so both coaches are well aware of each others’ tendencies, which will make for a marvelous chess match on the gridiron.