There was some uncertainty (some of it perhaps manufactured to give the event more drama), but the end result was the one most people expected: Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is officially the first freshman Heisman winner in history. Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o finished second with the strongest showing ever by a defense-only player, but ultimately it wasn’t enough to overcome Manziel’s nation-captivating – not to mention (and this was key) SEC-dominating – play.
Generally, if voters can find any excuse not to give the Heisman to a freshman, they’ll find it. But no one else had quite strong enough a case. Te’o is a senior who’s a dominant player and by all accounts a great guy, but if voters can find any excuse not to give the Heisman to a defensive player, they’ll find that too. So Kansas State’s Collin Klein was the frontrunner for much of the year… then his team lost a game. That was the end of that. Spelling it out like that, it seems a little nonsensical – that his team going 11-1 instead of 12-0 is what cost a guy the Heisman – but in Klein’s case, it’s probably true.
So in the end, Manziel provided the most of what voters like to see: huge (offensive) numbers, lots of wins, and the SEC thing didn’t hurt either. Te’o losing out made some people wonder if a defense-only player will ever win, but the fact he fared so well in the voting at all suggests that glass ceiling is destined to be shattered eventually. But this night belonged to Johnny Football – and in his speech, he demonstrated the same uncommon-for-a-freshman cool he displayed on the field all year. Video of the announcement, and his speech, below.