No moment is too big for him. That's what first-year Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, a former assistant coach at Oklahoma, had to say about his redshirt freshman quarterback, Johnny Manziel, a worthy successor to Ryan Tannehill.
“He gives our players a sense that anything can happen,” Sumlin said. “It's a contagious feeling.”
Ask Alabama. Manziel has put himself in the Heisman Trophy conversation after the Aggies upset the Crimson Tide last week. Maybe even right behind Kansas State senior QB Collin Klein.
Who figured? But that's what happens if you beat the top-ranked, reigning champions at their place. The Aggies (8-2) have already won more games than they did a year ago in the Big 12, when they were picked to finish second and ended up one game above .500, losing three double-digit halftime leads. This year they were picked fifth in the SEC West.
Maybe two new faces can make that much difference. Or even one.
Manziel has been described as a faster, slightly taller version of Doug Flutie. Yet Rivals.com only listed him as a three-star recruit. ESPN said he was the 78th-best QB in his class.
In June, he was arrested following an early morning altercation on charges of disorderly conduct, failure to identify and presenting false identification, all misdemeanors. Then he beat out sophomore Jameil Showers for the starting gig.
Manziel has thrown for 2,780 yards and 18 TDs, and run for 1,014 and 15, for a team that has the second-highest strength of schedule in the FBS (its losses were at home against Florida and LSU, by a total of eight, both in games it led). He leads the SEC in rushing. For comparison, when Tim Tebow won the Heisman as a sophomore in 2007, he accounted for 4,181 yards and 55 TDs on a 9-4 team.
No freshman has ever won the Heisman. Three finished third: Georgia Tech's Clint Castleberry (1942), Georgia's Herschel Walker (1980) and Virginia Tech's Michael Vick (1999).
Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson (2004) was a runner-up.
Since freshman eligibility was restored in 1972, only one first-year QB has taken a team to a national title: Oklahoma's Jamelle Holieway in 1985, after he became the starter when sophomore Troy Aikman, in his first season as the starter, broke a leg in the fourth game against Miami, the team's only loss. The former Henryetta High standout transferred to UCLA, and seemed to do OK for himself.
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