Johnny Manziel is a prime example of the evolution of the quarterback position at Texas A&M.
Prior to 1960, football was mainly a ground game. When Edd Hargett took over as quarterback in 1966, the Aggies took to the air. Hargett threw for 5,379 yards during his three-year career. He was the first true passing quarterback in Aggieland.
Emory Bellard implemented the wishbone offense in the '70s, relying more on running quarterbacks. In stepped players such as David Walker and Mike Mosley, who possessed the athleticism of skill players. During the 1980s, Gary Kubiak and Kevin Murray were true pocket passers, and Murray became the most decorated passer in the school's history. Following Murray, Bucky Richardson provided toughness and leadership to the position.
In the early 2000s, Reggie McNeal and Stephen McGee, both heralded dual-threat recruits, put up sizeable rushing and passing numbers. When Mike Sherman took over as coach in 2008, the Aggies turned to an uptempo, pass-heavy offense. Jerrod Johnson rewrote the A&M record books, throwing for more than 3,200 yards in 2009. Two seasons later, Ryan Tannehill broke the same record, throwing for more than 3,700 yards and 29 touchdowns.
Manziel isn't exclusively a running or passing quarterback. He's shown, in accumulating 3,419 passing yards amd 1,181 rushing yards, that he can do it all.
The redshirt freshman had the greatest statistical season in A&M -- and SEC -- history. With the quarterback primed to become the school's second Heisman Trophy winner, we asked 14 former A&M quarterbacks about Manziel's accomplishments. The overwhelming sentiment is that Manziel will go down as the greatest quarterback to have ever played at A&M and that he should hoist the Heisman hardware on Saturday in New York City.
Mark Farris (1999-2002)
Thoughts on Johnny: "He does stuff that, I've been watching football for 30 years, I don't think I've ever seen anybody do it. The first couple games, I was thinking, 'This guy's crazy, there is no way he can last.' If he can stay healthy, he'll be pretty hard to stop. It's pretty amazing."
On his improvement: "Honestly, I couldn't see it working in the SEC. He looked great in the first half against Florida but they slowed him down. There were a lot of naysayers. I would have said that can't work in the SEC. The athletes are too good, he's too small. I'm sure he's tired of hearing it. All that stuff has come together for him to make it work. He's done it for 12 games now."
Should he win the Heisman? "Him being the freshman is the silliest thing I've heard. To me, it makes it more impressive. He's the most valuable player in college football. To say it isn't him, you take him off the team, they don't win 10 games or close to it and that's the definition of valuable. If he doesn't win it, they should stop giving the award."
Jeff Granger (1991-1992)
Thoughts on Johnny: "Everything I've seen has been amazing. As a former quarterback, he exceeded any expectations I had for not only the position but for the team as well."
On Johnny's improvising: "It's very hard to do unless you're a gifted athlete and obviously he is. I would imagine that he doesn't have to think that much when it comes to it, he probably is thinking, 'Let's make a play, let's score a touchdown.' He's a great athlete. I enjoy watching him play and seeing what will happen next."
Should he win the Heisman? "He should be the second Heisman Trophy winner from A&M. No question, hands down. I'm concerned about the unwritten rules about the freshmen. If I had a vote, I'd vote Manziel 1,2,3."
Gary Kubiak (1979-1982)
Thoughts on Johnny: "I got a chance to see him last week firsthand [against Missouri] and I left very impressed. The way he was able to lead his team, and his run-pass combination, is a trait you don't see from freshmen. He has a bright future in Aggieland."
Jerrod Johnson (2007-2010)
Thoughts on Johnny: "I've been impressed with the fact that somebody as young as him has handled this. He's talented, in a great system and all that, but not to have a letdown from week to week, that's impressive. Sometimes it's up and down for a young quarterback. For him to string out 12 weeks of focus and play the competition he has, it speaks about him as a person."
On Manziel eventually breaking his records: "For me, I'm OK with that. If he's doing that, they're winning. To see A&M do well, I'll never fault that. It's good for A&M. The exposure will be huge for us. As long as the university is getting the credit it deserves, I'm OK if all my records get broken."
Should he win the Heisman? "I think he should. The stats, the numbers, there is nobody else you could give it to. I don't see anybody else. To me, you have to win the Heisman and he went out and won it."
Mike Mosley (1978-1980)
Thoughts on Johnny: "He's one of the best I've ever seen. You don't step on a team that goes 6-6 and just turn the team around. He's as good as I've ever seen, especially being so young and taking charge and playing against some of the best teams in the country and showing no panic. He's the best quarterback to ever play at A&M, if not for the state of Texas."
Should he win the Heisman? "There's no doubt. If you're picking the best player in college football, there's no doubt. Who cares that he lost two games? Manti Te'o is a good player, but I'll take my 4,600 total yards over a few tackles and a few interceptions. When you're beating Tim Tebow and Cam Newton's records, that's obvious."
Stephen McGee (2005-2008)
Thoughts on Johnny: "Johnny Football has elevated the play of not just the offense but the entire Texas A&M team. He competes, scores TDs and finds ways to win. He embodies what a football player should be. There isn't a better player or candidate for the Heisman Trophy."
Charlie Milstead (1958-1960)
Thoughts on Johnny: "I think it's fantastic. He's added a lot to the program. We're lucky to have him. It's unbelievable what he can do as a freshman quarterback. He can't do anything but get better, and I don't know how he can get better."
On his improvement: "It's been amazing how quickly he's adapted to the program and how quickly he's matured as a quarterback."
Should he win the Heisman? "There's never been a freshman to win the Heisman and I don't think I can speak to that because I've never been in the running for it. I would think the best player in the country ought to get it and I think he's one of the best in the country."
Reggie McNeal (2002-2005)
Thoughts on Johnny: "He's an exciting player that's fun to watch. Every game, he's going to give you something exciting to look forward to. Watching him play is like nothing else. It's clear cut who is the best player in the country."
On his improvement: "He's improved immensely. At the beginning, he played the game like a high school player --- whenever he hit the panic button, it was time to scramble. Watching him go throughout the year, you could see he started trusting his O-line a lot more. Being able to go through his reads and looking more comfortable in the pocket. It was rare he'd sit in the pocket. At first, it was scramble, scramble, run. Then it was scramble, keep your eyes up and, boom, people pop open. Everybody I've ever spoken to, that's a headache to the defense. You do everything right, but because that quarterback is an athlete, it's a matchup problem."
Should he win the Heisman? "Of course, man. They need to get off the freshman bias, Mark Ingram won and he was younger than Johnny was. To me, watching football and looking at football, Te'o is a great story and a great player and I understand that. But when you have a quarterback making plays like Johnny has, it's hard to give it to anybody else. If Johnny doesn't win it, that's a robbery."
Kevin Murray (1983-1986)
Thoughts on Johnny: "It's pretty apparent he moves better than most. I watched the first conference game live and the thing I've noticed that has impressed me most is how Kliff and Sumlin have coached him into going through his progressions, hanging in there more and not being so quick to get out when the bullets start flying. He's just a freshman and still has a ways to go, as to holding his water in the pocket. I thought that game, particularly in the second half, some things down the field he didn't take advantage of, and that's part of the maturity process, being thrust into the situation."
On his improvising skills: "There's no question about it, his feet are second to none. They're absolutely amazing, his escapability, the things he does in terms of extending plays, it drives people crazy. Nobody realizes how fast he is until gameday and you can't simulate the speed in which he plays the game. Is he reckless? Yes. Unorthodox? Yes. But does he get it done? The numbers speak for themselves."
Should he win the Heisman? "Of course. You have to give it to him. It has his name on it, and it's a travesty if he doesn't get it."
David Walker (1974-1977)
Thoughts on Johnny: "You can't stop this offense and you can't stop the guy who is running it. This is the best A&M's ever had. There's no question. He's just a combination of so many, that makes him so unique, you can't put a finger on who he's like. He's creating his own persona of what a space-age, new millennium quarterback can look like. He's just fabulous in every phase of the game. I don't think we could have a better guy leading our program. And Johnny's going to take us to brand new heights. My gosh, for three more years, if he stays healthy, and everything stays together, he's going to be one amazing kid who walks away with every record there is known to man."
Should he win the Heisman? "There's no doubt. If I had a vote, he'd win the Heisman, hands down. I'm kicking myself in the butt for not going to Vegas earlier this year. He's had the Heisman moments and he's had them against the very best."
Bucky Richardson (1987-1991)
Thoughts on Johnny: "I was like everyone else -- the big questions going into this season were: How would Johnny play? How would he respond? How would he handle things? Obviously, he's progressed since the first game of the year against Florida until the last game of the year against Missouri. We've all watched his improvement and watched him grow.
"He's a special kid and these kinds of kids can't be found everywhere. It's about how he handles each moment, each game, each third down, each close game. This kind of special doesn't come around that often. I'm grateful he has an A&M jersey on."
Should he win the Heisman? "If he doesn't win it - it'll be for political reasons. He's clearly been the best player in college football this year. I went to Texas A&M and, of course, I'm biased, but I really don't know who else you would give it to. I'd be the first one to tell you that if there was someone else out there who deserved it, give it to that athlete. But I think it's clear: Johnny should win it. He's earned it."
Ryan Tannehill (2008-2011)
Thoughts on Johnny: "He's done a great job this year. He's an exciting player to watch, he brings a lot of excitement to A&M, and he's won a lot of football games. He went into Alabama and won on the road against the No. 1 ranked team in the country. You can't say enough about his competitiveness and the way he plays. And he's put up an insane amount of yards and crazy numbers, so I hope he wins the Heisman."
Edd Hargett (1966-1968)
Thoughts on Johnny: "The best I've seen in a long, long time. I've been to the home games. He's been outstanding. He just has that feel for the game. When he's in trouble, he knows how to get out and get away. If you don't have that instinct, you won't be a very good quarterback. There aren't many people that can do it like he can. The good ones, they may not be able to run, but they can move in the pocket.
Should he win the Heisman? "I don't think there's anybody better than he is."
Branndon Stewart (1995-1998)
Thoughts on Johnny: "He's just really fun to watch. It's obvious the team builds on the confidence and excitement he brings to the game, the fans build off it. Any time you have someone like that that makes such a positive impact, it's the same with any standout athlete like [Michael] Jordan or [Joe] Montana. Any time they're on the field, they make big plays, the team feels more confident. You can't beat having a guy like that on your team. When you have those guys, you have to take advantage of it."
On his improvement: "The coaches he has, [Kevin] Sumlin and [Kliff] Kingsbury, have done a fantastic job of not crippling him in any way. They've got him confident in what he's doing. They don't tell him to slide or not run, they tell him to do what he does. They've tailored what they're doing to take advantage of what he's good at."
Should he win the Heisman? "Absolutely, it's not even a question. That's like saying should Abraham Lincoln win a re-election?"
*Kubiak, Mosley, Milstead, Murray, Hargett and Walker photos courtesy of the Cushing Memorial Library. All others are AP and Eagle file photos.