By Lateef Mungin and Cameron Tankersley
(CNN) — Texas A&M freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel on Saturday was named the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, making history.
Manziel, whose exploits led to his being dubbed “Johnny Football,” is the first freshman to win the Heisman, college football’s most prestigious award.
“This is a moment I’ve dreamed about since I’ve been a kid, running around the backyard pretending to be Doug Flutie pretending I was throwing Hail Marys to my dad,” Manziel said, gesturing to Flutie, the former Boston College quarterback who was onstage with other previous Heisman winners.
“It’s such an honor to represent Texas A&M and my teammates here tonight,” he told the audience at the Best Buy Theater in New York. “I wish they could be on the stage with me.”
He bested a field of finalists that included Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o and Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein.
Manziel amassed 43 touchdowns rushing and passing this year, and his 4,600 yards smashed the Southeastern Conference record for total offense.
But beyond the numbers, what put Manziel on the map was his play in Texas A&M’s improbable November win against Alabama, ranked No.1 in the nation at the time.
The Aggies were thought not to have much chance of success in the first season in the SEC, but largely because of Manziel’s play, they finished the regular season 10-2 and will be playing Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl on January 4.
In smashing through the underclassman barrier, Manziel achieved a feat that eluded past freshman stars Georgia’s Herschel Walker, Virginia Tech’s Michael Vick and Oklahoma’s Adrian Peterson. Walker (1980) and Vick (1999) both came in third in Heisman voting as freshmen, and Peterson (2004) finished second. (Walker did go on to win the trophy as a junior, in 1982.)
Manziel received 474 first-place votes, cast by past winners and members of the media, to 321 for Te’o and 60 for Klein. Other vote-getters were Southern Cal wide receiver Marquis Lee and Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller.
Like the freshman Manziel, the other two finalists represented potential firsts among Heisman winners: Te’o would have been the first exclusively defensive player to win the trophy and Klein the first Kansas State player.