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On Campus - Johnny Be Good

By Scott Haynes, Senior College Football Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Evolving is the name of the game in just about every facet of life. If you remain stagnant, times will pass you by.

The Heisman Trophy is no different.

This year's three finalists were certainly worthy of their trip to the Big Apple last weekend, but in the end, it was really a two-horse race, as Kansas State's Colin Klein (894 points, 60 first-place votes), was a distant third in the voting behind a freshman and a defensive stalwart.

The Heisman voters were charged with bucking conventional thinking and seriously deciding between a freshman with big numbers or a linebacker with good numbers and an elite resume. Either way the vote came down, it would represent a first in the history of the award.

Notre Dame's Manti Te'o definitely made it interesting. He racked up some strong numbers in 2012 (103 tackles, seven INTs) and was widely regarded as the ultimate leader for one of the nation's premier defenses, a unit that allowed just 10 touchdowns all year long.

Te'o picked up lots of hardware as a result, capturing this year's Butkus Award, Nagurski Award, Lombardi Award, Bednarik Award, the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award and the Maxwell Award, becoming the first player in NCAA history to pick up six national awards. That resume alone made Te'o the first- ever strictly defensive player (Charles Woodson won the award in 1997 but also played on offense and special teams for Michigan) to seriously vie for the Heisman and there would have been little argument across the nation had the voters decided to go that route.

However, the Heisman was just outside of his grasp, as the senior finished with 1,706 points, with 321 first-place votes. In the end, it was Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel who squeaked out the Heisman, capturing the award with 2,029 points, thanks to 474 first-place votes.

Manziel may have burst on the scene this season as a freshman in College Station, but he definitely played like a much older, much more savvy player, coming up huge when it counted the most.

Florida's Tim Tebow set the SEC single-season record for offensive yards in 2007 en route to his Heisman. Auburn's Cam Newton broke that record just three years later and took home the Heisman in 2010.

Manziel exceeded Newton's historic season with even better numbers, completing 64 percent of his passes, for 3,419 yards, with 24 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. He also added 1,181 yards rushing and 19 more touchdowns and set the SEC record for total offensive yards with 4,600.

Not even on the radar prior to the season and a Heisman long shot midway through the campaign, Manziel climbed the ladder to the top with his clutch performance against defending national champion Alabama in Tuscaloosa, as the Aggies upset the then top-ranked Crimson Tide, mostly on big plays by their young QB, who wasn't fazed by the huge stage and spotlight on the situation.

Having a defining "Heisman moment" is always a plus for a candidate and Manziel used his to the fullest, claiming the 78th annual award this past weekend. The Davey O'Brien Award winner and SEC Offensive Player of the Year, became the first freshman ever to win the Heisman and just the second player in Texas A&M history (John David Crow in 1957) to take home the most coveted piece of individual hardware in the sport.

The closest a freshman had come to winning the Heisman was Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson in 2004, but the now NFL superstar, came in second place to USC's Matt Leinart.

Affectionately known as "Johnny Football," Manziel can now add "Johnny Heisman" to his growing list of monikers.

Reaching the sports zenith at such a young age comes with its own set of problems though and Manziel will really need to continue to mature as a player and a young man to avoid complacency and add to a story that has started off more like a fairytale.

Could Manziel add a second Heisman to his trophy case?

A tall task in deed - but earning the first one was probably viewed as nearly impossible a few short months ago.

Betting against Manziel at this point may not be the wisest of moves.

12/10 14:03:08 ET

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