By Christian S. Kohl
The lightning fast start of reigning Heisman trophy winner Johnny Manziel has a lot of people talking. The unbelievable statistics he is compiling this year rival that of any other player in the country. He absolutely dominates at the quarterback position at the college level. So the question, very simply is, can Manziel win the Heisman for a second year in a row?
Texas A&M currently sits 2-1 after a tough loss to Alabama. In that stretch, Manziel features a completion percentage of 70.8%, and has thrown for 11 TD’s compared to just 3 picks. Similar to Tim Tebow, questions arise about his ability to perform at the pro level while he absolutely dominates this level. If Manziel continues this statistical tear through the NCAA, will he be rewarded with another Heisman?
No. That is the most simple way of putting it. Manziel made history last year by becoming the first ever freshman to win the award since its creation in 1935. Since that time, only one man has won the award twice, the great Ohio State running back Archie Griffin. For a second player to be awarded such an honor, that player would have to do more than just dominate the game in a way that has seldom been seen before. The image of that player would have to be beyond pristine.
It is for this reason that a player like Tebow had a far cleaner shot at it than Manziel does. Whatever one may think of Tebow as a person or pro, his character during his high school years was unimpeachable. There was a statue of him on campus before he even graduated. He dominated the game and won 2 BCS National Titles. And still he was not rewarded with a second Heisman.
All of which is to say, the pall cast over the image of Manziel for the issues regarding the autographs will be too much for him to overcome. No amount of statistics will sway voters to award him a second Heisman. This award is a human enterprise, like any award, and the NCAA is clinging to the idea of the untainted, unpaid student-athlete by its absolute fingertips. They wouldn’t dream of rewarding a player who is associated with the growing clamor for Division 1 athletes to be paid for their services. They would sooner strip him of the one he has than award him a second, no matter what they can prove.
What Johnny Manziel needs to prove is that he can lead an offense in professional football. All his attention should be geared toward development for a pro offense so he might be able to step in and lead quickly as we have seen a handful of rookie QB’s do in recent years. He needs to stay healthy. The rest is just white noise and distractions. The Heisman, however, should not distract him in the slightest. To award a player the Heisman is an implicit endorsement of his character. And if there’s one thing the NCAA avoids at all costs, it’s endorsements.
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Christian S. Kohl is a sports contributor for CBS Local Digital Media.