Joe Medley: Why I voted Johnny for Heisman
by Joe Medley
Dec 09, 2012 | 1179 views |  0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A win over Alabama pushed Johnny Manziel to the Heisman Trophy. (Photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
A win over Alabama pushed Johnny Manziel to the Heisman Trophy. (Photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
There’s a fun new term in the NFL — the “buttfumble.”

It’s how New York Jets fans term a recent play by increasingly unpopular starting quarterback Mark Sanchez, who had the misfortune of running into the back of an offensive linemen and fumbling. It happened on national television, and New England Patriots’ Steve Gregory returned the windfall for a touchdown.

There was a buttfumble before THE buttfumble, but it earned no unflattering nickname. As Alabama fans remember all too well, the original buttfumble turned out much differently.

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel scrambled to his right, stopped and popped back, bumped into right guard Cedric Ogbuehi and lost control of the football.

Unlike Sanchez, Manziel kept his feet, caught the ball, scrambled away then located a wide-open Ryan Swope in the back of the end zone for a throw-back-against-his-body touchdown pass.

That and many other plays Manziel made that day — in a winning effort in Bryant-Denny Stadium, no less — became the wrapping around the present that was his case to be the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy.

I had no qualms voting Manziel No. 1 on my ballot, followed by Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o and Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein.

Freshman? Why should it matter?

In an era when the best college players often go pro after their junior seasons, college coaches know they’ll have a great one for only three years, regardless, so go ahead and play him. That evolution had something to do with the recent run of sophomores winning the Heisman, including Alabama running back Mark Ingram in 2009.

So, why not a freshman, or, in Manziel’s case, a redshirt freshman?

It’s an idea whose time has come, and it came in the form of a 6-foot-1, 200-pound street baller who plays by a Marine Corps slogan — improvise, adapt and overcome.

One can strip away the highlights and make the case. As a redshirt freshman playing under a new head coach, he led Texas A&M to a 10-2 inaugural season in the SEC, the league that has produced the last six national champions.

Stop me when the case for Manziel is sufficient.

Because of Manziel’s swashbuckling style and smart-weapon arm, Texas A&M became the only team to beat Alabama this season. The second-ranked Crimson Tide (12-1) is favored to win its third national title in four years when it plays No. 1 play Notre Dame in the Bowl Championship Series final.

Still need more?

OK, so Manziel broke Cam Newton’s 2-year-old, SEC single-season record for total yards. Recall that Newton’s Heisman season was touted as one of the best ever by a college player.

Anyone who needs more is just being difficult, but there’s plenty. Just YouTube it. A 12-minute, 38-second video of Manziel’s highlights in the Alabama game should do.

While watching, keep reminding oneself that he’s doing this against Alabama. Those are Nick Saban recruits on defense, and Saban’s defenders have way of winding up in the NFL.

While watching, see Manziel escape some of college football’s best-schooled, most-disciplined defenders. Then see him throw lasers into small gaps his running prowess helped to create in Alabama’s secondary.

How about the teardrop lobbed to Swope down A&M’s sideline, just over Robert Lester and just under Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix?

Or how about the strike deep over the middle that landed in Swope’s hands a split second before Clinton-Dix and Lester sandwiched him?

How about the deep fade Manziel threw to Malcome Kennedy for what proved to be the decisive touchdown. One might have heard of the Alabama defender — Dee Milliner?

Everyone who entered Bryant-Denny Stadium that day knew of Manziel’s reputation as a scrambler. Many left with a new level of respect for his accurate arm.

He’s not as big and powerful as Newton but every bit as effective with his legs, and Manziel is even more dangerous with his arm.

I didn’t see a more difference-making player than Manziel in college football this year, in person or on TV, so I voted him No. 1. Besides, he found a way to make the “buttfumble” look good.

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