Columnists, Sports

Tuesday’s Take: Heisman Mistake

So, I made a mistake.

That’s refreshing to hear from a sports columnist in this town, isn’t it?

It was in the Nov. 13 issue of The Daily Free Press, while assessing the Heisman candidates that I wrote:

“Let me tell you, it’s a little bit soon to be calling Johnny Manziel anything other than Johnny Manziel. Not Johnny Football and certainly not Johnny Heisman.

First, and foremost, he’s a freshman. No freshman has ever won it. And he won’t. Period.”

And today, I come humbly to apologize to Johnny Heisman.

Johnny, I’m sorry. Can you ever forgive me?

The Texas A&M QB finished ahead of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o and Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein with 2,029 points. Te’o’s 1,706 and Klein’s 894 were not enough to earn them the title of Heisman trophy winner. Manizel was named first, second or third on 92 percent of the ballots.

Talk about an improbable matchup though. A strictly defensive player up against a freshman quarterback: two types of players that have never won. I’m surprised the Heisman voters didn’t reveal themselves to be old and crotchety and vote Klein the winner in an attempt to preserve the unwritten “guidelines” of what it means to be a Heisman trophy winner.

The Heisman pose itself is the stiff arm. An offensive move. So I guess that means that even if you have the best defensive numbers ever, on the No. 1 ranked team, with a compelling personal story, you can’t win.

Te’o got the Heisman stiff arm by the voters.

Te’o recorded more than 100 tackles for the third straight season, and as a linebacker, somehow finished second in the country in interceptions.

The Irish defender’s off-the-field story was equally impressive. He lost his girlfriend and grandmother in the same week, and still played well in the team’s win over Michigan State University. His votes for Heisman were the most ever by a purely defensive player.

Charles Woodson’s win in 1997 was all-purpose. Te’o could’ve bucked the trend and been the defensive Heisman. But, it was not in the cards. He’ll have to settle for a glass football when the Irish stop the Roll Tide in the BCS National Championship.

I don’t want to discredit Manziel though. He absolutely deserved the victory. His numbers, especially at that age, are staggering. He has thrown for 3,419 yards and 24 touchdowns and run for 1,181 yards and 19 more scores to become the first freshman, first SEC player and fifth player overall to throw for 3,000 yards and run for 1,000 in a season. Incredible.

And any reservations I had about Johnny Football were absolved when I saw his model girlfriend. Add another score to his tally.

My earlier column also contended that the Heisman isn’t as important as it is billed to be.  And when I say billed to be, I mean advertised by ESPN.

The endless coverage of this thing ranks right up there with their coverage of Tebowmania or Brett Favre’s retirements. Calm down. There’s no need for these one-hour specials. ESPN, in these situations, really defines what it stands for: Entertainment and Sports Programming Network. And what does entertaining programming do?

It sets high advertising rates for the “worldwide leader in sports” So we see these one-hour, dragged out, feature-driven crappy specials. Just tell me who won already!

I didn’t watch and learned about it from Twitter, on principle.

The Heisman is an overrated trophy. It doesn’t mean you’re going to have an incredible NFL career. It means you had an outstanding college football year.

Winning the Heisman is like winning “most likely to be successful” in a high school yearbook. Seems cool and is indicative of your future at the time, but you could end up a college dropout in two years. Or worse, ride the bench for the Jets.

I’ll leave you again with this stat: Of the 76 men — excluding Manziel — selected as the Heisman Trophy winner, just five have made the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Don’t expect Johnny Manziel to make it there either.

And if he does, I’ll apologize again.

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