Johnny Football becomes Johnny Heisman by winning 2012 award

Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel wins the Heisman, the first freshman to win it in the 78-year history of the award. (Getty Images)

NEW YORK -- Johnny Football is now Johnny Heisman. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M's 20-year old quarterback, became the first freshman in the 78-year history of the award to win the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night.

The kid with the golden arm, feet and nickname became the award's second-youngest winner. Manziel cashed in on the Heisman momentum created four weeks ago when A&M upset then-No. 1 Alabama 29-24. After posting 345 yards in total offense at Bryant-Denny Stadium, we began to know the intimate details of Johnny Football.

The Kerrville, Texas, native whose high school games were a slice of Americana -- “Friday Night Lights,” Manziel called them -- eventually captured the hearts and minds of everyone who mattered, including Heisman voters.

Heisman Voting
Player, School1st2nd3rdTot.
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M4742521032,029
Manti Te'o, Notre Dame3213091251,706
Collin Klein, Kansas St.60197320894

Before his 20th birthday -- Manziel's was Thursday -- the quarterback broke the single-season SEC total offense record held for only two years by 2010 Heisman winner Cam Newton. Twice he broke the single-game total offense record. Manziel became the first SEC player, first freshman ever and fifth FBS player to throw for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000.

“I like being the face of the team,” he said.

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Maybe, but the best player in America visited Central Park on Saturday and was barely recognized.

That said more about New York than it did Manziel. Manziel became the third consecutive Heisman winner with Texas roots. Auburn's Cam Newton (2010) won a national junior college championship in his only season at Blinn College in Brenham, Texas. Baylor's Robert Griffin III (2011) is from Copperas Cove, Texas.

This year's winner was once committed to Oregon, but had second thoughts, deciding to stay home where his family and friends could see him.

“I'll sit here until I'm blue in the face and say Texas high school football is the best in the entire country. They put out a ton of recruits,” Manziel said. “You see the movie ‘Friday Night Lights'. Kerrville was a lot like that. The town was closed down for a high-school football game.”

Now he is the toast of the Big Apple.

“Tell Chip [Kelly] he did all right,” A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said earlier in the season.

Without Manziel, Oregon's coach ended up with his own redshirt freshman at quarterback. Marcus Mariota should be a Heisman contender next season -- with Manziel in the mix, of course. Manziel's win also continued an underclassman trend. In fact, the last senior to win the award was Ohio State's Troy Smith in 2006.

There was a definite spiritual feel to this year's finalists. Third-place finisher Collin Klein of Kansas State got engaged to his now wife without a first date. He had his first kiss at the altar in July, honoring a promise he made to himself at age 14.

Notre Dame's Manti Te'o lost his grandmother and girlfriend the week of the Michigan State game. The native Hawaiian wore a set of traditional congratulatory leis to honor his homeland. Teo had the second-most first-place votes (321) and third-most total points of any runner-up in history.

Manziel feels redeemed after an offseason incident. He was cited after a fight outside a bar and for giving a policeman a fake ID. The details eventually emerged. This year's Heisman winner had to undergo drug and alcohol counseling and his subject to random drug testing, according to the New York Times.

“Without a doubt I definitely thought there was a time when I didn't really know where I was going to go from there,” Manziel said shortly before the ceremony. “My fate was kind of up in the air.”

The town that embraced Broadway Joe now has Johnny Football to celebrate. A year ago he was a scout team quarterback. As of late August, he was locked in a quarterback battle with sophomore Jameill Showers. Manziel then lost his first start Sept. 8 to Florida, but the coaching staff knew it had something special.

The only drawback?

“The ability for him to understand we've got 10 other guys on the field that can help him win the game,” Sumlin said this season. “He doesn't have to make every play himself.”

Although sometimes it seems like it.

 
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