Enjoy your Heisman, Johnny Football, because it probably won’t get much better than this.
You’ve won the prestigious trophy earlier in your college career than anyone who has ever played the game.
Beware of what lies ahead.
It’s no coincidence that there’s only been one two-time Heisman winner, Ohio State running back Archie Griffin, who captured the trophy in 1974 and 1975. But almost 40 years of perspective hints to us that Griffin’s repeat was probably a matter of happenstance, a case of the Heisman electorate temporarily falling asleep at the wheel (it was the groovin’ ’70s, after all).
Therefore, the smart money says there will never be another two-time Heisman winner.
Think of some of the amazing players who had a chance to pull it off but couldn’t: Doc Blanchard of Army, Doak Walker of SMU, Roger Staubach of Navy, Billy Sims of Oklahoma, Herschel Walker of Georgia, Ty Detmer of BYU, Matt Leinart of USC and Tim Tebow of Florida. The failure of these players to win that second trophy raised the bar for future players attempting a shot at it. After all, the next player to match Griffin’s feat will have to be put on the short list of all-time college football legends, right? The Heisman electorate went against normal convention and selected a freshman this time around. Casually doling out two Heismans is another story.
There are more common sense reasons why there will never be another two-time winner.
Face it: In today’s America, success makes you a target. The sooner you rise to the top, the sooner they try to tear you down. How soon before the anti-Johnny Football backlash begins? In 2012, Manziel put up 4,600 yards of total offense and 43 touchdowns while leading his team to its best record since 1998. A sophomore year that falls shy of those numbers, both individually and at the team level, will be seen as a failure.
The dominance of social media has shortened the news cycle from days down to hours, sometimes minutes. Every interception, or fumble, or bonehead play is touted as ‘evidence’ of general ineptitude. Players are chewed up and spit out on a daily basis by the snark merchants. Who can survive that environment?
The mainstream media won’t be able to help itself. It will heavily promote Manziel as next fall’s Heisman frontrunner then, when fans complain later about how he is being foisted upon them, they’ll do an about face. That’s how it always happens.
In the meantime, fresh faces are sure to appear on the scene, with their own narratives and nicknames, their own statistically superior seasons for voters to latch on to. As new and exciting as ‘Johnny Football’ is now, he’ll be old hat by next fall.
Meanwhile, the games must be played and the pressure will be on the 2013 edition of Manziel. The target on his back will be bigger than ever in the SEC. Defensive coordinators will be concocting exotic game plans to stop the defending Heisman winner. He was brilliant on his first journey through the league. It will be tougher the second time around.
All the things that had to go right for Manziel to win the Heisman this year — the general collapse of the various front runners, the perfect set up in Tuscaloosa, the record-setting production and Kansas State’s late-hour collapse against Baylor — will be tough to duplicate. Can lightning strike in the same spot twice? And remember that Johnny Football isn’t exactly a big guy. He led a charmed existence in 2012, but his fearless style will continue to put him at risk of injury.
Manziel still has some things working in his favor. He’s got three more years to win that next trophy, which means three more years to improve and three more chances to make his case to voters. Even if voters get sick of him in 2013, they could fall back in love with him at some later point in his career.
Not that failing to win a second Heisman would be that big of a deal. Like Tebow, Manziel may have some bigger fish ahead of him to fry.
A national championship perhaps?
“I have to be the guy who starts the team’s motor for a run at the national title next year,” Manziel said after the Heisman ceremony. “That’s our goal.
“If more awards come, they come.”