And before you ask, yes, it’s a ssslllooowww news day.
In becoming the first (redshirt) freshman to claim the Heisman Trophy in the 78 years of the prestigious award, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel finished a comfortable distance ahead of runner-up Manti Te’o. Manziel was given a first-place nod on 474 ballots, Te’o on 329. One of the ones who opted for the Notre Dame linebacker? A certain former Texas Longhorn.
During a radio interview earlier this week and by way of the Dallas Morning News, Heisman winner and ex-UT running back Ricky Williams acknowledged that he Te’o and Manziel 1-2, in that order, on his Heisman ballot. As a former winner, Williams is given the opportunity to vote on the award annually.
While Williams’ “snub” of a player from an in-state rival may stir up some in Aggie Nation, Williams’ response to a “second-guess” question was immensely more interesting and enlightening.
As you have no doubt heard, Te’o was embroiled in a bit of controversy last month as it came to light that he was the victim of an online hoax involving in part a “dead girlfriend.” That emotional subplot — Te’o playing the majority of the season through the grief of losing his girlfriend (fake) and beloved grandmother (real) — was one of the myriad storylines heading into the New York City ceremony and was a significant reason according to many that the defensive player was even in the Heisman discussion.
When asked if he would still give Te’o his vote for the Heisman if he knew then what he knows now, Williams was unequivocal that he still would’ve thrown his first-place support to Te’o.
“I wouldn’t have,” Williams said when asked if he would’ve changed his vote. “I was watching that crap on TV. I don’t really watch the news that much, but it was on every day. Finally, when it got to Kathie Lee and Hoda [on the Today Show], I was like, what’s going on with this stuff? I didn’t get what the big deal was.
“To me, it’s like people are surprised that athletes are strange. Do you guys know what we do? Especially football players. To play football in the NFL, you have to be a little bit strange. Otherwise you would’ve given up a long time ago.”
Being Ricky Williams, he’s certainly qualified when it comes to the nature of being a bit strange.
Regardless, good for him. Yeah, he’ll take some grief from Aggie fans, but he voted for Te’o based on the player’s on-field accomplishments (we think). The fact that Te’o was duped has nothing to do with the linebacker leading the Irish to a perfect season and a spot in the BCS title game. He may have been exposed against Alabama — who isn’t these days? — but his play through the first 12 games was very much Heisman worthy, as Williams and 328 voters would attest.