And Peter K’s Heisman Trophy Vote Goes To…

By  //  December 3, 2012

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Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M quarterback. And here’s why.

He was, in my opinion, the most outstanding player in college football this season. It makes no difference if he’s a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior. All we have is now. This season.

Believe me, I listened to your input. I read all the comments again and again that you posted at the bottom of my query, asking for your thoughts on who should get my Heisman vote. It was helpful and insightful.

Johnny Manziel

I heard the arguments that Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o should get the award. But sorry, those who suggested that Te’o should get my first-place vote simply because it’s time for a defensive player or a linebacker to win the award wasn’t a good enough argument for me. First of all, let’s not forget that when Charles Woodson won the Heisman Trophy in 1997, he was a two-way player, but primarily a defender.

But that’s not the point. Just saying that it’s time for a defender or a linebacker to win the award doesn’t mean that the time is now. Not unless I believe Te’o was the most outstanding player in all of college football this season. And I don’t believe that. I believe it to be Johnny Manziel, especially for what he did as a passer and runner against some of the best defenses – much less the best conference; the SEC – in college football.

Some suggested that Te’o should win the Heisman because of what he’s overcome off the field, losing his grandmother and girlfriend within six hours of each other, and still playing. Yes, that was inspiring. It was also emotional that he honored his girlfriend’s wishes and played on the same day of her funeral.

But if we’re being realistic, there are dozens of college players who fought through off-the-field issues and sorrows this past season. We don’t award them the Heisman Trophy for doing so. I think reader Dale Mays said it best when he posted: “Te’o’s personal issues off the field should have no bearing on his votes. EVERY athlete has personal/off-field issues that they have to deal with during a season….my heart goes out to Te’o….but not my vote.”

Then again, Te’o does get a Heisman vote from me – for second place. You see, I have to vote one, two and three on my ballot.

I didn’t really wrestle much with my first- and second-place votes. But my third-place vote? I did go back and forth with that. It came down to two quarterbacks – Ohio State’s Braxton Miller and Kansas State’s Collin Klein. I settled on Klein, believing he was a better all-around quarterback this season. So my Heisman Trophy ballot looks like this.

1. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

2. Mani Te’o, LB, Notre Dame

3. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State

Braxton Miller, a sophomore, could win it in the future. That’s for another year to decide. Life is fluid. I remember 1980, when Herschel Walker was the best, most-electrifying player in college football, leading Georgia to a national championship, which also happens to be the last time the Bulldogs won it. But because Walker was a freshman, and he would – quote, unquote – have his time to win it, Heisman voters selected South Carolina’s George Rogers for the award.

I disagreed with that then, and still do now.

Walker didn’t win the award the following year, his sophomore season. It went to USC’s Marcus Allen. Finally, almost as a consolation, he won it his junior year. And then, just when people thought he might become the first (and only) repeat winner since Archie Griffin, Walker left school early for the USFL.

Walker should serve as a reminder that we vote for the present, not the future.

Reader Charles “Phil” Smith put it well when he posted: “Has to be Johnny “Football” Manziel (Texas AM). Freshman are eligible to play and should be eligible to win ALL awards available. Herschel Walker from Georgia should have won but voters would not seriously consider freshmen.”

He’s spot on.

So I don’t look to the future and say that Johnny Manziel, just because he’s a redshirt freshman, will have his time then. Nobody knows that for sure.

His time is now, and he made the most of that time this season. In doing so, he earned my Heisman Trophy vote.


  1. Totally agree with your pick for Heisman.
    However I would reverse your 2nd and 3rd having seen Teo and Klein play this year. Teo was fronted by a defensive line at N.D. that is better than a lot of D lines in the N.F.L. which made his job easier.

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