Sports with Shook: Give the Heisman to Johnny Football


Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is interviewed during a media availability event for the ESPN College Football Awards at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn on Wednesday, December 5, 2012, in Orlando, Florida.. Photo by STEPHEN M. DOWELL.

Nick Shook

Before we get into the thick of things here, I need to take care of a quick shout out.

Shout out to my alma mater and former coaches at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School for their major accomplishment last Saturday. The Fighting Irish did what neither I, nor Cleveland radio host Andre Knott, nor NBA superstar LeBron James could do — end a 24-year high school football state championship drought. St. V-M won the school’s fifth state title with a 42-21 victory over Bellevue. Congratulations to Dan Boarman and Co. (including sons Anthony and Dan Jr., Marcus Wattley, Mark Murphy Sr., Rob Brown and of course, Pruvie Tomei) on a job well done.

Now, bring it in for the real thing.

We have reached the end of the college football regular season.

Which means…it’s time for the postseason awards debate!

Usually at this point of the season, most of the winners are pretty clear-cut. Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o won the Lombardi and Butkus awards, Kansas State’s Collin Klein won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award (what a corny name, by the way), and Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly won the Coach of the Year award.

But one trophy, the most prestigious award in all of collegiate sports, still remains unawarded.

That’s right, I’m talking about the Heisman Trophy.

The finalists invited to the ceremony are Te’o, Klein, and Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel. Te’o and Klein are both seasoned veterans of the college game, but Manziel is a rare freshman finalist.

Now, before you jump out of your seat in complete exasperation, shouting “no, he’s a REDSHIRT FRESHMAN,” let me explain.

I understand that Manziel is a redshirt freshman, and this isn’t truly his first season. But it IS his first season on the field, and what a first season it has been.

Manziel wowed onlookers from the first game in which he played, but caught national attention with a major upset victory against then-No. 1 Alabama. Oh, wait, I didn’t mention that he did this away at Alabama? Well, in case you didn’t know a redshirt freshman beat the best team in college football in their own house. And he didn’t just squeak out a victory; Manziel made the vaunted Alabama defense look foolish, with both his arm and legs. The redshirt freshman quarterback amassed a total of 345 yards in the 29-24 win against the Crimson Tide, and immediately, Johnny Football mania swept the nation.

If you happened to catch an A&M game prior to the one at Alabama, though, you wouldn’t have been all that surprised.

Manziel shredded opposing defenses all season. In a game at Mississippi State, he literally led them down the field so quickly and efficiently that I actually turned the channel not even midway through the second quarter.

Let me make a quick statement that some of you are not going to like: Manti Te’o is an exceptionally talented linebacker, but he does not deserve the Heisman Trophy.

If Courtney Brown (Penn State), Andy Katzenmoyer (Ohio State), LaVarr Arrington (Penn State), Jonathan Vilma (University of Miami) didn’t win the Heisman, then Manti Te’o should not win the Heisman.

Honestly, his entire campaign has been fueled by Notre Dame’s rise to the top. If Notre Dame loses to Oklahoma, or USC, or Stanford then his bid for the prestigious trophy evaporates.

As for readers that are muttering “he’s just a Notre Dame hater,” I’m not. I love Notre Dame. My favorite three college football teams are Ohio State, Notre Dame and Kent State. So no, I don’t hate Notre Dame; I just hate seeing the wrong player win an award.

As for Collin Klein, I don’t think he should even be in the discussion. If I had to rank the top three, it would go Manziel, Te’o and then Klein. But if it were up to me, I’d replace Klein with USC wide receiver Robert Woods.

If the Trojans (7-5) hadn’t fallen flat on their face five times in 2012, thanks in part to the ineptitude of head coach Lane Kiffin, I think Woods would be a favorite to win this award. He still put up huge numbers despite an extremely underachieving team.

Here’s a novel thought for those obsessing about the Heisman — what about Braxton Miller?

Call me biased, but I’m pretty sure Ohio State finished the regular season 12-0. And I’m pretty sure, except for a last-second win against Purdue, Miller led the Buckeyes to those victories. He was the focal point of the offense under Urban Meyer.

Miller deserves more of a consideration than Klein, in my opinion. Klein benefits from a conference that has absolutely no semblance of a pass defense. Even worse, Klein doesn’t lead the Big 12 in passing yards — he’s fifth behind Baylor’s Nick Florence, West Virginia’s Geno Smith, Oklahoma’s Landry Jones and Texas Tech’s Seth Doege. Texas Tech’s quarterback is the exception, because they rarely ever run the ball.

But if Klein can’t even lead his conference in passing, what makes him such a qualified candidate?

The scariest part about Manziel? He’s still got three more years of eligibility.

Archie Griffin, the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner, better watch his back.