Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o was looking forward to a break after a five-cities-in-five-days tour, during which he has become the most decorated player in college football.
“I’m just trying to get a workout in and get some sleep,” the senior said Friday about his plans for the night.
Texas A&M redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel seemed to have more energy when he arrived at a midtown Manhattan hotel with his fellow Heisman Trophy finalist. In fairness, Johnny Football’s week hasn’t been nearly as hectic, though this trip to New York is different from the first time he visited with his family when he was young.
“It’s just taking it up a whole ’nother level, but happy to be here,” he said.
Manziel, Te’o or Collin Klein, the other finalist who couldn’t make it to town Friday, each has a chance to be a Heisman first today.
Manziel is trying to be the first freshman to win the award. Te’o would be the first winner to play only defense. Klein would be Kansas State’s first Heisman winner.
Manziel and Te’o were on the same flight from Orlando, Fla., where several college football awards were handed out Thursday. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound quarterback was just happy the 255-pound linebacker didn’t try to record another sack when they met.
“He’s a big guy,” Manziel said, flashing a big smile from under his white Texas A&M baseball cap. “I thought he might stuff me in a locker and beat me up a little bit.”
The two hadn’t had much time for sightseeing yet, but they did walk around Times Square some, saying hello to a few fans. They probably weren’t too difficult to spot in their team-issued warm-up gear.
“We’ve just been talking about goofy stuff. Playing video games. Playing Galaga. Just some things from back in the day. Messing around with each other,” Manziel said. “Kind of seeing who is going to take more pictures. He’s definitely taking that award right now.”
Te’o is already going to need a huge trophy case to house his haul from this week. He has won six major awards, including the Maxwell as national player of the year. He’ll try to become Notre Dame’s eighth Heisman winner and first since Tim Brown in 1987.
“I can only imagine how I would feel if I win the Heisman,” he said.
Charles Woodson of Michigan in 1997 is the closest thing to a defensive player winning the Heisman. Woodson was a dominant cornerback, but he also returned punts and played a little receiver. That helped burnish his Heisman credentials.
Te’o is all linebacker. He leads the top-ranked Fighting Irish with 103 tackles and seven interceptions.
Klein was the front-runner for the Heisman for a good chunk of the season, but he played his worst game late in the season – in a loss at Baylor – and the momentum Manziel gained by leading Texas A&M to victory at Alabama has been tough to stop.
Chris Huston began his Heisman life as an assistant sports information director at USC, where among other chores he managed the successful Heisman campaigns of Carson Palmer (2002) and Matt Leinart (2004). That led him to formulate his 10 Heismandments for a successful trophy campaign.
A website, heismanpundit.com, was the next step in his evolution. The pundit’s annual straw poll, established in 2007, has correctly predicted the past five winners.
Heismanpundit.com’s straw poll predicts Manziel will win, followed by Te’o and Klein.
“(The straw poll) is made up of 11 Heisman voters from across the country, including myself,” said Huston, who works as an analyst for cbssports.com. “We’ve had four leaders. It started with Matt Barkley (USC) to Geno Smith (West Virginia) to Collin Klein (Kansas State) to Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M).”