NEW YORK — Texas A&M quarterback and Tyler native Johnny Manziel, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o and Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein are the finalists for the Heisman Trophy.
Nicknamed Johnny Football, Manziel quickly became a national sensation this season, putting up huge numbers in first-year Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin's spread offense. He led the 10th-ranked Aggies to a 10-2 record in their first season in the Southeastern Conference.
With a knack for improvisation, Manziel racked up an SEC-record 4,600 yards of total offense, including 1,181 rushing to lead the conference. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Manziel zoomed to the front of the Heisman race on Nov. 10, when he passed for 253 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 92 yards as the Aggies upset then-No. 1 Alabama 29-24 in Tuscaloosa.
Manziel and Texas A&M will play Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl.
Manziel's parents, Paul and Michelle, grew up in Tyler and moved to Kerrville when their son was in the seventh grade.
Manziel's grandparents still live in Tyler — Jerry and Lyana Loggins, John Paul Manziel, Pat Manziel and stepgrandmother Tammie.
Te'o is trying to become the first defense-only player to win the Heisman. The Fighting Irish have seven Heisman winners, tied for the most with Ohio State and Southern California, but none since Tim Brown in 1987.
He became the face of the No. 1 team in the country and leader of a defense that has been the toughest to score upon in the nation. The senior intercepted seven passes, second-most in the country and tops for a linebacker. He also led the Fighting Irish with 103 tackles, and earlier Monday won the Butkus Award as country's best linebacker.
Te'o and the Irish face No. 2 Alabama in the BCS championship game on Jan. 7 in Miami.
Klein would be the first player from Kansas State to win the Heisman. He seemed to be the front-runner for several weeks until Manziel's late push. When Klein threw three interceptions in the Wildcats' late-season loss to Baylor, Manziel moved to the front of the race.
Klein is a multi-talented quarterback like Manziel, but with a different approach. The 6-5, 226-pound senior is a bullish runner who scored 22 touchdowns and threw for 15 more, while leading the seventh-ranked Wildcats (11-1) to the Big 12 title. Earlier in the day, Klein won the Johnny Unitas Award given to the top senior quarterback in the nation.
Kansas State plays Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl.