Since 1935, the the Heisman Trophy Trust has handed out the award for the most outstanding player in collegiate football, and they will continue that tradition Saturday night in New York City at the Best Buy Theatre.
Three top candidates emerged from what was a crowded field at the beginning of the season.
Freshman quarterback sensation Johnny Manziel, nicknamed “Johnny Football”, set the SEC record for most total yards in a single season with 4,600, and scored a combined 43 touchdowns, leading Texas A&M to a 10-2 record.
The Kansas State Wildcats were in contention for the BCS national championship because of quarterback Collin Klein. Kansas State captured their first Big-12 title since 2003 behind Klein’s 42 total touchdowns and 156.1 passer rating.
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Rounding out the ballot is Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o, who overcame personal tragedy during the season to lead the Fighting Irish to a perfect 12-0 season and put them in the national title game against Alabama.
According to recent reports of straw polls, Manziel is up and could become the first freshman to ever capture the award, but fans will have to wait and see.
All three candidates are worthy of the award, but only one can take home the most prestigious honor in college football.
Below are the details of each player’s season and why they are deserving of this year’s Heisman.
Notre Dame, Senior, Linebacker, Manti Te’o,
Stats: 103 tackles, 7 INTs, 1.5 sacks
Reason he should win: The 21-year-old from Hawaii suffered the losses of his grandmother and girlfriend in the same week during the season, and still managed to lead the second ranked defense in the country. Notre Dame reached their best record in two decades thanks to Te'o's incredible leadership.
Te’o also led his team in tackles and interceptions, and is projected to be a top five pick in next year’s NFL draft.
Reason he may not win: Back in 1997, Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson was technically the only defensive player to ever win the award, and he also returned punts.
Texas A&M, Freshman, Quarterback, Johnny Manziel
Stats: 3,419 passing yards, 24 TDs, 8 INTs, 155.9 passer rating, 1,181 rushing yards, 19 TDs
Reason he should win: Looking at Manziel’s numbers would make him an obvious choice, but then voters are reminded that he put up those numbers as a freshman in the much-heralded SEC.
It was the inaugural season for the Aggies in the nation’s toughest conference, and Manziel’s signature Heisman moment came against then-No. 1 Alabama. Texas A&M upset the Tide 29-24, and it was all due to Manziel’s stellar play.
Reason he may not win: Top NFL players like Adrian Peterson and Michael Vick put up incredible numbers like Manziel in their freshman seasons, and barely cracked the top five of the Heisman ballot.
Kansas State, Senior, Quarterback, Collin Klein
Stats: 2,490 passing yards 15 TDs, 7 INTs, 156. 1 passer rating, 890 rushing yards, 22 touchdowns
Reason he should win: Klein can become Kansas State’s first ever Heisman winner, after carrying the Wildcats to their best record since 2002. The Kansas State offense hummed with Klein under center, scoring 40.7 points per game, and put up 50 or more points in five games.
The Wildcats also beat five Top 25 opponents, including a 24-19 win at Oklahoma.
Reason he may not win: Despite impressive overall numbers, Klein wilted in Kansas State’s blowout loss to Baylor, and threw three interceptions. If the Wildcats had made the national title game, voters would've had a much tougher decision.
Prediction: If the straw polls are correct, then Manziel will make history. While he was the favorite for most of the season, Te’o’s best chance resides in his school’s history. Notre Dame has fielded seven Heisman winners, the most of any program.
Manziel toppled a historic defense in Alabama and torched the nation’s best conference. Both of those accomplishments will push him over the top, and he’ll be the first freshman to win the Heisman.