Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel will learn in four days if he’s the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, awarded annually to college football’s best player.
University of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o and Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein are the other finalists for the Heisman, which will be presented Dec. 8 in New York.
Manziel, 19, emerged as the Heisman Trophy frontrunner after a season in which he’s totaled 4,600 yards of offense to break the Southeastern Conference record of 4,327 set by former Auburn University quarterback Cam Newton during his Heisman- winning 2010 campaign. Manziel has passed for 3,419 yards and 24 touchdowns while rushing for 1,181 yards and 19 scores.
“This is a dream come true for me, and I know it’s a credit to all my coaches and teammates,” Manziel said in a statement. “I definitely wouldn’t be a Heisman finalist without my teammates and coaches.”
Manziel was listed last week as the 1-6 favorite to win the Heisman, according to online sportsbook Bovada.lv, while Te’o had 7-2 odds and Klein was listed at 15-2.
A 6-foot-1 redshirt freshman from Kerrville, Texas, Manziel led Texas A&M to a 10-2 record in their SEC debut, the school’s first 10-win season since 1998. The Aggies finished ninth in the final Bowl Championship Series rankings and play No. 11 Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 4 in Arlington, Texas.
The only Texas A&M player to win the award was halfback John David Crow in 1957.
Te’o, a 21-year-old senior, has spearheaded a Notre Dame defense that allowed the fewest points of any team at college football’s top level. He had a team-leading 103 tackles and seven interceptions as the Fighting Irish went 12-0 and earned the No. 1 national ranking and a spot in the BCS title game on Jan. 7 against the University of Alabama.
Te’o yesterday received the Nagurski Award as college football’s best defensive player and the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker.
“These awards are great, but football is a team sport,” Te’o said yesterday. “If you ask people who the Butkus Award or the Bednarik Award winners are, or even the Heisman Trophy winner some years, they probably don’t remember them. But they remember who won the national championship. That’s the trophy everybody wants.”
In addition to its eight Associated Press national championships, Notre Dame has had a record-tying seven Heisman Trophy winners, with the last being receiver and kick returner Tim Brown in 1987. John Huarte (1964), Paul Hornung (1956), Johnny Lattner (1953), Leon Hart (1949), Johnny Lujack (1947) and Angelo Bertelli (1943) were the other six players from the school to win the award.
The last defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy was University of Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson, who was also a standout punt returner when he claimed the award in 1997.
Klein, a 23-year-old senior, accounted for 37 touchdowns as Kansas State went 11-1 and finished fifth in the BCS rankings. Klein passed for 2,490 yards and 15 touchdowns while rushing for 890 yards and 22 scores.
The Wildcats will play No. 4 Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 3 in Glendale, Arizona.
Kansas State has never had a Heisman Trophy winner. Klein is the school’s first Heisman finalist since quarterback Michael Bishop was the runner-up in 1998.
“I’m so proud to represent K-State in this because I feel like my road is very synonymous and in line with the K-State way,” Klein said. “It has been a process, it has been a journey. There have been a lot of ups and downs, as well as a lot of hard times and growing pains through it.”
Baylor University quarterback Robert Griffin III won the 2011 Heisman. The trophy is named in memory of John Heisman, a former coach who as director of New York’s Downtown Athletic Club helped create the award in 1935. Heisman died from pneumonia less than a year later.
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