LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- College football’s biggest single night for awards is set for today, and two of the most talked about players said the spotlight may be the most difficult they’ve endured.
Texas A&M freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel and senior Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein headlined a group of several finalists who addressed the media Wednesday after arriving at Disney World in advance of the awards show.
Manziel and Klein, along with Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o, have already been selected finalists for college football’s prized Heisman Trophy, which will be presented Saturday in New York.
The trio will be in the spotlight before that on Thursday, though. They are all finalists for another coveted player of the year honor, the Maxwell Award. Manziel and Klein also are both up for the Davey O’Brien National Quarter back Award, along with Ohio State’s Braxton Miller.
Manziel said the experience has been eye opening for not only him, but the family members that accompanied him.
"It’s been surreal for them as well. They’re getting overwhelmed just as much as I am," said Manziel, who turns 20 on Thursday. "The thing they’re doing is they’re just enjoying it. They’re just sort of living through me and enjoying the trip, coming to Orlando and then New York... I’m happy for my family getting a chance to do all of this with me."
Te’o and Miller didn’t arrive in Florida on Wednesday. But they will be in town for Thursday night’s award show.
The Maxwell Award has been a predictor of Heisman winners in recent years, with Maxwell recipients Cam Newton (2010) and Tim Tebow (2007) going on to win the Heisman.
Known for his understated demeanor while at Kansas State, Klein seemed a lock to take the Heisman before the then-No. 1 Wildcats lost to Baylor 52-24 on Nov. 17.
But the guy who’s earned the nickname "Optimus Klein" lived up to it after helping his team rebound and earn a convincing win over Texas last week to secure the second Big 12 championship in Kansas State’s history. The Wildcats will meet Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl.
He said he hasn’t let himself get caught up in much of the off-field hype that grew around him as Kansas State found success this season.