Heisman Voters Get It Wrong, Again
And the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner is… Johnny Manziel.
Manziel, who garnered 474 first place votes, capped off a special season that saw him pile up 4,600 total yards–becoming the first freshman and fifth player to throw for 3,000 yards and run for 1,000 in a season. He also managed to pull of an improbable upset–dethroning then number one team, the Alabama Crimson Tide 29-24.
Given all good ol Johnny Football’s accolades, you would think the Heisman voters got it right.
But I disagree. I believe they got this one wrong.
Why? Manti Te’o, who ended up with 1,706 points and 321 first place votes, was the obvious choice for the honor.
Whether Manziel or Te’o won, history was going to be made. Manziel, an electric 6’1 200 pound quarterback, would become the first freshman to win. Te’o, who totaled 103 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and seven interceptions in 2012, was slated to become the first purely defensive player to take home the trophy. (Charles Woodson, who started at cornerback but played wide receiver for 1997 Michigan Wolverines, was named the 1997 Heisman trophy winner. He was the first and last primarily defensive player to take home the award.)
As stated in the intro, Manziel was given the award. He gave one the most eloquent and gracious speeches I’ve seen in recent years–recounting how he dreamed of the moment when he was a child.
“I have been dreaming about this since I was a kid, running around the backyard pretending I was Doug Flutie, throwing Hail Mary’s to my dad,” Manziel said after hugging his parents and kid sister.
Although Manziel’s numbers back up his choice, I can’t help but think that voters were just more comfortable with picking a quarterback, albeit a freshman one, over a defensive player.
Ndamukong Suh, who finished fourth in the Heisman vote in 2009, is the most recent case of a defensive player getting snubbed. Suh, a defensive tackle, made an impressive case to win the award–compiling 85 tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss, 12 sacks and a remarkable 11 pass deflections. If he wasn’t the nation’s most outstanding player, to whom the Heisman is awarded, then WHO THE HELL IS.
Apparently, the voters thought Mark Ingram, Toby Gerhart and Colt McCoy were more outstanding that season, although the latter player, McCoy, was terrorized by Suh in the Big 12 championship game–as the future NFL superstar sacked him 4.5 times.
I can only imagine the conversations writers had in 2009.
2009 Heisman Voters: Suh is freak and I’ve never seen a college player dominate the way he has dominated this past season. …And I can’t name anyone else on his team. I just can’t cast my vote for a defensive player; they don’t have enough impact on the game. Did he play any tight end or fullback? That would show his versatility. Then, I could have an excuse to vote for him. Since he didn’t play any offense, I think I’ll vote for one of the other guys I know he is better than.
There were probably similar conversations going on in 2012.
2012 Heisman Voters: Te’o is a tremendous leader, role model and the best player on the number one team in the country. His team’s offense was mediocre all season, but I still don’t know how he affected the game with his seven interceptions from the linebacker position and bone-crushing tackles. Did he play any fullback? I could have a reason to vote for him, like I wanted to vote for Suh three years ago. Well, since he didn’t play any offense, I think I’ll vote for the kid with the catchy nickname. What’s his name? Johnny Football. I know Te’o was better this year…but that nickname is just so damn cool.
Instead of sulking over losing to Manziel, Te’o used it as motivation. “It’s motivation,” Te’o said. “I always wanted to be the best. I just use that as motivation to be the best I can be. Obviously, I have a lot of work to do. I’m just excited to get back and get things cracking. … Go back home, see all my brothers, get back into the groove of things. Get the pads back on, smack around some guys, study a lot of film. That’s what I love about all this time, I have weeks and weeks to study film. Usually, I’ll have about three days to study film, but now I’ve got three weeks to study film.”
Will a purely defensive player ever win the Heisman? It looks doubtful at this point.
I have a piece of advice for Jadaveon Clowney, a South Carolina defensive end who will receive Heisman hype heading into the 2013 season.
Don’t get your hopes up.
By Jeremiah Short
Follow this writer @DaRealJShort or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.