NEW YORK — A year after Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, youth was served again — this time, by an overwhelming margin.
Florida State’s Jameis Winston, 19, the wunderkind signal-caller of the Seminoles’ top-ranked football team, became the second freshman — and youngest ever — to win college football’s most coveted prize when he was named the 79th Heisman Memorial Trophy winner Saturday night at the Best Buy Theater.
“I’m so overwhelmed right now, it feels great,’’ said Winston, the ACC’s Player of the Year who became the third player in Florida State history to win the Heisman after quarterbacks Charlie Ward (1993) and Chris Weinke (2000), who was the oldest ever at 28.
“I cannot explain the feeling I have inside right now,’’ said Winston, who turns 20 Jan. 6, the same day as Florida State’s BCS National Championship game against Auburn. “I’m so overwhelmed right now. It’s awesome.’’
Despite being left off 115 ballots, 13 percent of the 900 Heisman tabulated, Winston won by the seventh-largest margin in Heisman history, garnering 2,205 points and 668 first-place votes. Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron finished a distant second with 704 points and 79 first-place votes, while Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch finished third (558 points, 40 first-place votes).
Boston College running back Andre Williams, the nation’s leading rusher who won the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s best back, finished fourth with 470 points and 29 first-place votes. His presence at the presentation, on the 29th anniversary of Doug Flutie’s 1984 Heisman win, marked a rebirth for BC’s football program, which went from two wins a year ago to a team that will play Arizona in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl Dec. 31 in Shreveport, La.
It no doubt helped BC land a commitment Friday from a four-star recruit, Jonathan Hilliman, a 6-foot-1-inch, 202-pound running back from Jersey City, N.J.
“I just think it’s funny because they always say that history repeats itself,’’ said Williams. “The way I interpret that is that when [Flutie] was able to play and do the things he was doing, he was the one who first put BC on the map.
“It fell off the map, but now we’re back on it with me being here as a Heisman finalist. BC is in a better place than they were this time last year, so I’m just really, really proud.’’
The minority faction of the Heisman electorate snubbed Winston possibly in reaction to the investigation into his alleged sexual assault last December. Winston was not charged because of insufficient evidence. Winston, who was named on 87 percent of the tabulated ballots, picked up a tidal wave of votes when 81 percent of the ballots were cast in the final week leading up to the Dec. 9 deadline.
During a roundtable media session Friday, Winston spoke directly for the first time about the investigation saying, “I knew I did nothing wrong.’’ Asked Saturday if becoming the 37th quarterback, and 12th in the last 13 years, to win the Heisman added to his sense of vindication, Winston replied, “I mean, obviously, this is a great feeling but nothing will compare with the feeling of me being vindicated.
“This is a moment where I want to put all that [behind] and I don’t want to talk about that,’’ he added. “Because this is a moment that I will cherish for the rest of my life.’’
Winston carried a 40 percent majority in all six voting regions, winning each in dominant fashion with no fewer than 339 points. He scored the most points with 395 in the Southwest, where he won the region by 290 points ahead of Texas A&M’s Manziel (105), who, as a Heisman elector, divulged he did not vote for himself.
Williams, who tallied 132 points in the Northeast, finished second to Winston (339) in the BC player’s home region. Meanwhile, Lynch, a native of Chicago, totaled 116 points in the Midwest, where he was runner-up to Winston (353).
McCarron, who was vying to become the second player from Alabama to win the Heisman after running back Mark Ingram in 2009, finished runner-up to Winston in three regions: the Mid-Atlantic (366-112), the South (390-128), and the Far West (362-128).
“I was blessed for that to happen,’’ said Winston, when asked about the broad geographic support he received. “I really believed that people actually just trusted in me. People obviously saw us play, but that comes from my team, too. If it wasn’t for those guys, we wouldn’t be playing on ESPN, we wouldn’t be getting the hype they say, so I just thank those guys.’’
After the Heisman torch was passed to him, Winston took a moment to reflect on the trail Manziel blazed for him a year ago.
“Johnny was the first, he was the first to ever do that,’’ Winston said. “I can learn from Johnny. That’s the thing about life. We’re all evolving right now. The respect that Johnny Manziel should have from everybody, people don’t understand it, but Johnny was in the shoes I’m in right now.
“He was young and he was the youngest player to ever win this trophy. And, to me, he did a good job on the football field and he got better.’’
Michael Vega can be reached at email@example.com.