He is the first repeat winner of the Manning Award, having received the award following the 2015 season. The Manning Award, now in its 13th year, was created by the Allstate Sugar Bowl to honor the college football accomplishments of Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning. It is the only quarterback award that takes into consideration the candidates’ bowl performances in its balloting. The award is voted on by a panel of local and national media, as well as each of the Mannings.
“Over the years, we have seen so many tremendous performances in the postseason, and this year we saw Deshaun Watson turn in an amazing two-game playoff performance,” said Archie Manning. “When the Allstate Sugar Bowl created the Manning Award in 2004, one of the key components was to recognize achievements throughout the entire year, including bowls, and now the playoff. This year is a prime example of why we do that.”
“The Allstate Sugar Bowl is honored to partner with the Manning family to recognize the accomplishments of the nation’s top quarterback each year,” said Chuck Lapeyre, President of the Sugar Bowl Committee. “After welcoming Deshaun Watson to New Orleans last spring for the Manning Award ceremony, we learned what a fine young man he is and are therefore truly honored to see him become the first two-time winner.”
Watson, who earned his undergraduate degree in December, capped his collegiate career on Monday evening by leading Clemson to its first national championship since 1981 with a thrilling 35-31 victory over Alabama. In the title game, Watson passed for 420 yards and three touchdowns while running for another score, but he will be long-remembered for the final play of his career when he rolled out of the pocket and delivered the championship-winning touchdown pass to Hunter Renfrow with one second remaining on the game clock.
Watson played in four career postseason games and earned MVP honors in three of those contests. In those four games, he threw for 1,271 yards and nine touchdowns. In two College Football Playoff National Championship games against Alabama’s vaunted defense, he tallied 825 passing yards and seven touchdowns.
For the season, the Gainesville, Ga., native completed 388-of-579 passes for 4,593 yards and 41 touchdowns while also rushing for 629 yards and nine touchdowns. He ranked in the top four in the nation in Total QBR, passing yards and passing touchdowns. In addition to the Manning Award, he was selected as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy and won the Davey O’Brien Award, the Johnny Unitas Award and the Bobby Bowden Award.
His career stats are also phenomenal as he posted a 32-3 record as the Tigers’ starting quarterback, tallying over 11,000 yards of total offense with 115 touchdowns while leading his team to a pair of ACC Championships (winning MVP in each of those title games), two national title game appearances and the ultimate crown – the national championship.
Other finalists for this year’s Manning Award were: J.T. Barrett (Ohio State), Jake Browning (Washington), Sam Darnold (USC), Luke Falk (Washington State), Jalen Hurts (Alabama), Lamar Jackson (Louisville), Patrick Mahomes II (Texas Tech), Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma) and Zach Terrell (Western Michigan).
In its first 13 years, the Manning Award has recognized the top names in college football. It has honored quarterbacks from 11 different schools and from four different conferences. The Southeastern Conference (Johnny Manziel, Cam Newton, JaMarcus Russell and Tim Tebow) and the Atlantic Coast Conference (Watson twice, Matt Ryan and Jameis Winston) lead the way with four Manning Award winners each, while Texas is the only school with two different winners (Colt McCoy and Vince Young).
Statistically, the Manning Award has seen a wide-range of quarterbacks. Ten of the Manning Award men threw for over 3,000 yards in their winning campaign, including 4,000-yard seasons from Robert Griffin III, Marcus Mariota, Ryan, Watson (twice) and Winston. On the other hand, Watson (in 2015), Young, Manziel and Newton were all 1,000-yard rushers during their Manning years.
Perhaps most impressive among the statistics of the quarterbacks recognized by the Manning Award is touchdowns scored. Eight of the winners accounted for over 40 touchdowns during their successful seasons – Mariota tallied a Manning Award-best 58 touchdowns during his winning campaign in 2014.
One of the more unique aspects of the Manning Award is the fact that it takes account of the quarterbacks’ bowl performances, in addition to the regular season. Twelve of the 13 Manning Award winners won bowl games during the season they won the honor; the lone loss was by McCoy in the 2010 BCS Championship game when he suffered an early injury. In addition to Watson and McCoy, six other Manning honorees (Matt Leinart, Mariota, Newton, Tebow, Winston and Young) led their teams to the national championship game (BCS or CFP). Watson accomplished that feat twice, winning the title this season.
Previous Manning Award winners have also factored prominently in the NFL Draft as they all heard their names called on Draft Day (except for Watson, who is expected to be a top selection in the 2017 NFL Draft). Three honorees were selected No. 1 overall (Newton, Russell and Winston), while four others went No. 2 or No. 3 (Griffin, Mariota, Ryan and Young).
All the Manning Award winners follow in the footsteps of the Mannings themselves. In college, Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning combined for over 25,000 passing yards and 201 touchdowns while playing in 10 bowl games and earning four bowl MVP awards. Archie was the No. 2 pick in the NFL Draft, while both Peyton and Eli were selected No. 1 overall.
In addition to the Manning Award's yearly honor, each week during the regular season, eight quarterbacks are recognized as Manning Quarterbacks of the Week. Sixty-one players from 59 different schools were honored during the 2016 season.