Johnny Manziel’s “Integrity” for Heisman

With the Heisman Trophy ceremony just around the corner, the real Heisman watch is officially on. Of course the analysts have been talking about the Heisman race since before the season even started, but what does anyone really know before one snap has been played? As of November 5th, 2013, the top five candidates according to the ESPN Experts’ Poll are Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, Johnny Manziel, Bryce Petty, and AJ McCarron.

Manziel, quarterback for Texas A&M, won the Heisman last year, but since then has made more of a name for himself for his antics off the field. His name has been mentioned in just about every Heisman conversation for the past year. If you’ve ever seen him play, you know why. “Johnny Football” can play. I don’t think there’s anyone out there that would argue with that. But do off field activities mean nothing as far as winning the Heisman is concerned?

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On June 29th, 2012, Manziel was arrested for getting involved in an altercation and being in possession of a fake I.D. He ultimately plead guilty to the misdemeanors and paid a fine. He was originally suspended for the whole 2012 football season, but that decision was reversed when coach Kevin Sumlin stepped in on Maziel’s behalf.

Over a year later in August 2013, after Johnny Football had won the Heisman Trophy, another scandal erupted. It was alleged that Manziel had been paid by an autograph dealer to sign for signing various items. The broker said he paid Manziel $7,500 in exchange for the autographs. After the NCAA conducted its investigation, Manziel was suspended for the first half of Texas A&M’s first game of the season against Rice.

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If Maniel actually did what he was accused of doing, why was he only given a slap on the wrist by the NCAA? Since he was suspended, however briefly, it stands to reason that the NCAA found him guilty of something.

The Heisman Trust Mission Statement clearly states: “The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.” They key phrase that stands out in my mind is “… excellence with integrity…”

Integrity means being honest and having a strong moral character. Nothing about Manziel’s actions show that he has any integrity at all. From lying about his fake I.D. to clearly breaking the rules of the NCAA and accepting money in exchange for his autographs, integrity is the word furthest from my mind when Johnny Maniel’s name comes up.

In Maniel’s first appearance of the 2013 season, many analysts referred to Manziel as a “punk” after getting penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct. He was benched shortly after the taunt. Some say it was the coach’s decision to pull him from the game after the penalty, but it also could have been that Texas A&M was ahead of Rice 51-28. Either way, Manziel had clearly been jawing throughout the game and wasn’t likely to quit.

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The Heisman Trophy is the highest honor a single player can receive in college football, but there’s obviously no way to tell if it always goes to the most moral of players. If you look back to 2010’s Heisman winner, Cam Newton, you know that incidents off the football field don’t always mean anything. The question of good moral character is obviously not a key determinant when it comes to the trophy. I can only hope that Manzeil, the only freshman to ever win the trophy, doesn’t repeat after his off field discrepancies this year.

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