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Manziel is first freshman to win Heisman Trophy

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Manziel is first freshman to win Heisman Trophy

NEW YORK (AP) He's Johnny Best in Football now - and a freshman, at that.

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel became the first newcomer to win the Heisman Trophy, taking college football's top individual prize Saturday night after a record-breaking debut.

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o finished a distant second in the voting and Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein was third. In a Heisman race with two nontraditional candidates, Manziel broke through the class ceiling and kept Te'o from becoming the first purely defensive player to win the award.

``That barrier's broken now,'' Manziel said. ``It's starting to become more of a trend that freshmen are coming in early and that they are ready to play. And they are really just taking the world by storm.''

None more than the guy they call Johnny Football.

Manziel drew 474 first-place votes and 2,029 points from the panel of media members and former winners. Te'o had 321 first-place votes and 1,706 points and Klein received 60 firsts and 894 points.

``I have been dreaming about this since I was a kid, running around the backyard pretending I was Doug Flutie, throwing Hail Marys to my dad,'' he said after hugging his parents and kid sister.

Flutie was one of many Heisman winners standing behind Manziel as he gave his speech on stage at the Best Buy Theater in Times Square.

``I always wanted to be in a fraternity,'' Manziel said later. ``Now I get to be in the most prestigious one in the entire world.''

Manziel was so nervous waiting for the winner to be announced, he wondered if the television cameras could see his heart pounding beneath his navy blue pinstripe suit. But he seemed incredibly calm after, hardly resembling the guy who dashes around the football field on Saturday. He simply bowed his head, and later gave the trophy a quick kiss.

``It's such an honor to represent Texas A&M, and my teammates here tonight. I wish they could be on the stage with me,'' he said with a wide smile, concluding his speech like any good Aggie: ``Gig' em.''

Just a few days after turning 20, Manziel proved times have truly changed in college football, and that experience can be really overrated.

For years, seniors dominated the award named after John Heisman, the pioneering Georgia Tech coach from the early 1900s. In the 1980s, juniors started becoming common winners. Tim Tebow became the first sophomore to win it in 2007, and two more won it in the next two seasons.

Adrian Peterson had come closest as a freshman, finishing second to Southern California quarterback Matt Leinart in 2004. But it took 78 years for a newbie to take home the big bronze statue.

``It doesn't matter anymore,'' he said.

Peterson was a true freshman for Oklahoma. As a redshirt freshmen, Manziel attended school and practiced with the team last year, but did not play in any games.

He's the second player from Texas A&M to win the Heisman, joining John David Crow from 1957, and did so without the slightest hint of preseason hype. Manziel didn't even win the starting job until two weeks before the season.

Who needs hype when you can fill-up a highlight reel the way Manziel can?

With daring runs and elusive improvisation, Manziel broke 2010 Heisman winner Cam Newton's Southeastern Conference record with 4,600 total yards, led the Aggies to a 10-2 in their first season in the SEC and orchestrated an upset at then-No. 1 Alabama in November that stamped him as legit.

He has thrown for 3,419 yards and 24 touchdowns and run for 1,181 yards and 19 more scores to become the first freshman, first SEC player and fifth player overall to throw for 3,000 yards and run for 1,000 in a season.

``You can put his numbers up against anybody who has ever played the game,'' Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said.

Manziel has one more game this season, when the No. 10 Aggies play Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 4.

As for the Heisman, Manziel said he'd like to keep it right next to his bed.

``But I'm in college. A lot of people come through the house. We live in a college neighborhood. It might not be a good idea. If I can get a case that's indestructible, locked and looks pretty good, we'll see where I keep it,'' he said.

The resume alone fails to capture the Johnny Football phenomena. At 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, Manziel is master of the unexpected, darting here and there, turning plays seemingly doomed to failure into touchdowns.

Take, for example, what he did in the first quarter against the Crimson Tide. Manziel took a shotgun snap, stepped up in the pocket as if he was about to take off on another made scramble and ran into the back a lineman. On impact, Manziel bobbled the ball, caught it with his back to the line of scrimmage, turned, rolled the opposite direction and fired a touchdown pass - throwing across his body - to a wide-open receiver.

He might as well have been back in Kerrville, Texas, where he became a hill country star in high school.

His road to college stardom was anything but a clear path.

Manziel competed with two other quarterbacks to replace Ryan Tannehill as the starter this season, the Aggies' first in the SEC and first under Sumlin.

Manziel came out of spring practice as the backup, but became the starter in August.

Still, nobody was hailing him is the next big thing. Did Sumlin think he had a Heisman winner on his hands?

``No,'' he said emphatically, adding, ``Not this year.''

Then Manziel started playing and the numbers started piling up.

He also had some struggles against Florida in the season opener and in a home loss to LSU. The question was: Could he do his thing against a top-notch opponent?

The answer came in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Nov. 10. Going into the matchup against the Crimson Tide, Manziel said he and his teammates heard a lot of doubters.

``You can't do this and you can't do that,'' he recalled Saturday at the podium

Manziel passed for 253 yards, ran for 92 and the Aggies beat the Tide 29-24. Klein had been the front-runner for most of the season, but Manziel surged after beating `Bama.

Still, Manziel was still something of a mystery man. Sumlin's rules prohibit freshmen from being available to the media. Manziel was off-limits, but not exactly silent.

Manziel gave glimpses of himself on social media - including some memorable pictures of him dressed up as Scooby-Doo for Halloween with some scantily clad young women.

Before he became a celebrity, Manziel got himself into some serious trouble. In June, he was arrested in College Station after police said he was involved in a fight and produced a fake ID. He was charged with disorderly conduct and two other misdemeanors.

After the season, Texas A&M took the reins off Manziel and made him available for interviews, allowing him to tell his own tale.

Though in the end, his play said it all.

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Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphdrussoap

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Alex Ovechkin, Carey Price put on a show with superstar showdown in Montreal

Alex Ovechkin, Carey Price put on a show with superstar showdown in Montreal

The best of the NHL was on display Monday in Montreal where the Capitals edged the Canadians 5-4 in overtime. Within the game, a superstar matchup emerged as the top goal scorer of his generation locked horns with arguably the best goalie in the world in an incredible bout that lived up to all the hype that surrounded the game.

”It’s great for the fans, great for everything,” Brett Connolly said. “It’s good to see two really good players go at it like that.”

Throughout his career, Alex Ovechkin has tormented Montreal goalie Carey Price. In 24 regular season games, he has scored on Price 18 times. On Monday, Ovechkin added two more goals to that total.

In the first period, Tom Wilson delivered a blistering pass through traffic right to the tape of Ovechkin who tipped it in past a helpless Price who had been waiting for the shot. He would add a second goal in the third period from the office with the Caps on a two-man advantage.

At that point, a hat trick seemed like a foregone conclusion, but that’s when Price began to battle back.

Price robbed Ovechkin of goal No. 3 with not one, but two brilliant saves in the third period to help force overtime.

With the puck on the left wall, Ovechkin charged the net from the right midway into the third period. Connolly managed to find him with the pass and Ovechkin delivered a one-touch shot that Price snared out of the air Statue-of-Liberty style. Somehow Price managed to get over from post to post to snag the puck with the glove and he made sure to put some extra flair on the save.

With the score still tied at four, Ovechkin made one final push to win the game in regulation.

This time it was Wilson on the right with Ovechkin setting up for the one-timer on the left. Wilson delivered the pass and Ovechkin fired what would have been a buzzer-beater goal with just two seconds left in regulation. Price slid to cover the cross-ice shot, but could not get completely over in time to block the shot. He lifted his blocker up in desperation and just managed to catch the puck and send it out of play.

“Obviously Alex made a great shot, hit the knob of his stick,” Braden Holtby said. “It’s one of those unlucky things. It just happens.”

It was a spectacular save the brought that Montreal faithful to their feet and even drew recognition from Ovechkin himself.

Ovechkin’s initial reaction was one of disbelief, but he soon began applauding along with the crowd and skated over to give the netminder his due.

“It was a pretty cool moment, pretty beautiful save and the fans was cheering for him,” Ovechkin said. “I was kind of same.”

The Caps would get the last laugh with the overtime winner, but this was a rare occasion in which the result of the game as largely overshadowed by the drama that unfolded between two players.

Ovechkin finished the game with two goals against Price, while Price finished with 29 saves including two third period beauties to deny Ovechkin his hat trick.

Capitals head coach Todd Reirden was effusive of his praise of both players after the game.

“It’s stars like that that put on performances like they both did tonight that just make it worth every dime that it costs to come to the game and worth the price of admission tonight for certain with those two."

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Joe Flacco's status remains uncertain as Ravens head into Week 12

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Joe Flacco's status remains uncertain as Ravens head into Week 12

Lamar Jackson's first NFL start has taken over the headlines and airwaves since his historic performance Sunday for the Baltimore Ravens. But what about that guy Joe Flacco?

Sunday marked the first time Flacco wasn't the team's starting quarterback in 41 games as he nursed a hip injury sustained in their Week 9 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Ravens were hush all week on Flacco's status against the Cincinnati Bengals, but head coach John Harbaugh told reporters post-victory they knew the Super Bowl XLVII MVP would be unable to start. 

"Finally, it was when he had a doctor’s appointment earlier in the week in New York," Harbaugh said. "One of the final … We had an indication of it the week before – it was going to be tough. But the final word … I can’t remember what day it was. It was Monday or Tuesday.” 

In his 11 years with the Ravens, the only extended time Flacco has missed was six games back in 2015 after tearing his ACL. Prior to Week 11, Flacco was on the injury report only eight times and had missed only three practices during the regular season. 

Flacco sustained the injury on the team's opening drive against the Steelers three weeks ago, but played the full 60 minutes completing 23 of 37 passes for 206 yards. What we've learned about the injury over the last week and a half is that it doesn't appear the quarterback will need surgery, but beyond that, there is little information on a return date. 

"Yes, it will be tough for him this week coming up,” Harbaugh added postgame. 

The timing of this injury is obviously not ideal given that Flacco is playing on the last year of his contract and the quarterback they drafted to replace him had about as good of a start as you can draw up.

"I'm not getting into any of that, Harbaugh said Monday on if Flacco would would have a chance to reclaim his job.

With six games to play and currently in a five-way tie for the last AFC wild card spot, a lot, and we mean a lot, can happen.

And just 24 hours after saying it would be tough for Flacco to play this upcoming week, Harbaugh upgraded Flacco's status.

“He has a chance. It’s just a matter of how fast the healing takes place in there," Harbaugh said during his Monday press conference. "It’s not a surgical thing; it’s just a calming-down type of a thing with the hip, and I’m not a doctor. They have that commercial with the TV doctors. I’m not even a TV doctor, so we’ll see.”

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