The 2012 season for the Texas A&M football team was itself a huge achievement, one that earned third place in our viewer poll of the biggest stories of the year. A single player's accomplishments trumped the team in our survey.
Johnny Manziel, a redshirt freshman from Kerrville near San Antonio by way of Tyler, is now a College Station sensation, a Heisman trophy winner, and according to KBTX's poll, the second biggest story of 2012.
In August, the then-19-year-old quarterback earned the starting job for coach Kevin Sumlin's first Aggie team, and the first A&M squad to compete in the Southeastern Conference. Early expectations were not high, and an opening game loss to Florida likely didn't help change minds.
The rest of the season would, and Manziel would lead the charge.
Save for a loss against Louisiana State, the Aggies would top its other ten opponents, with Manziel breaking records with regularity.
- Manziel is the SEC's single season total yardage record holder with 4,600. He did it in 12 games, compared to the previous record holder, Cam Newton, who needed 14.
- In the Louisiana Tech game, he racked up an SEC record 576 total yards, re-breaking the record he achieved two weeks earlier against Arkansas when he recorded 557 yards.
- For the season, Manziel had north of 3,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards. He was just the fifth player to achieve that, and the first freshman and first SEC player to do it.
- Three times, Manziel threw for 300 yards and ran for 100, something never done in one season before.
- No freshman quarterback ever ran for so many yards (1,114), and no freshman ever totaled so many (4,600).
Manziel also led the Aggies to victory on the road against then-top-ranked Alabama. It's a game repeatedly noted by the player himself as the point when talk of him winning the Heisman Memorial Trophy became loud.
The quarterback himself hadn't been allowed to voice his feelings to the media, loud or soft. Sumlin's rule is that all freshman cannot speak to the press, but once the regular season ended, the coach let his quarterback talk. His season-long silence likely enhanced the aura building around a young man simply becoming known to the nation as "Johnny Football."
The achievements escalated in December. Having racked up a bevy of regular season honors, on his 20th birthday, he added the Davey O'Brien Award as the nation's top quarterback. Days later in New York City, he picked up the top individual honor in college football. Manziel was the first freshman and second Aggie to win the Heisman.
Texas A&M plays Oklahoma at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington on Friday in the AT&T Cotton Bowl.