He's the undisputed leader on the nation's top-ranked team, a major reason the Fighting Irish went unbeaten in the regular season for the first time since 1988 and landed a spot in the national championship game against either Alabama or Georgia. It's hard not to shed a tear every time he makes a big play, either, remembering how he's still dealing with the grief of losing both his grandmother (who died after a long illness) and his girlfriend (who succumbed to leukemia) just a few hours apart on an awful day back in September.
A special season, to be sure.
But Manziel's debut season goes beyond that. It's transformational, like the first time you saw Herschel Walker flatten a defensive back, or Michael Vick cutting this way and that on one play, then unleashing a 70-yard pass on the next.
It's beyond Heisman-worthy.
"This is something you dream about as a kid," Manziel said. "When you're playing those NCAA (video) games as a kid, you create players who can win the Heisman by putting up some crazy numbers."
When he used to dream up his perfect player for that make-believe world, it looked more like Newton.
You know, 6-foot-6, about 250 pounds, stronger and faster than anyone else on the field.
In real life, Manziel didn't turn out that way. He's just a smidgen over 6-foot. He tips the scales at around 200 pounds. Solid, but not imposing.
"I did get tackled a couple of times and heard people say, 'You're really small' or 'You're not as big as we thought,'" Manziel conceded.
Turns out, he was better than the guy on the video game.
The one with the Heisman.
Paul Newberry in a national writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry(at)ap.org or www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963
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