The answer is . . . 1966.
Nearly a half century has passed since scholars in cleats graced the cover of TIME before this week’s magazine featuring Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. In the Oct. 28, 1966, cover story, the magazine highlighted standout passing skills on the college football teams at Florida, UCLA, Purdue, and Tennessee, but focused on Notre Dame’s dynamic duo, quarterback Terry Hanratty and wide receiver Jim Seymour, “the hottest young passing combination in the U.S.” According to the story:
Terry Hanratty can zing a football 60 yds. with a flick of his right wrist on a trajectory so flat that the ball will rise no more than 10 ft. off the ground. When he was still in high school, he stood at one end of a gymnasium and flipped the ball four times in a row through an 18-in.-wide basketball hoop at the other end of the building. Jim Seymour, at 6 ft. 4 in. and 205 lbs., is still growing and he can run the 100-yd. dash in 9.7 sec. He can also “juke” his hips, dip his shoulder, toss his head, flutter his eyelashes, and leave a safety man twisted up like a pretzel as he cuts downfield for a pass. He can then leap 4 ft. straight up and pluck a football out of the sky—with such tenderness that one observer reported: “You can stand right next to him and never hear the ball hit his hands.”