A Manti Te’o Heisman trophy, much like Notre Dame’s slot in the BCS National Championship game, should be all but sealed up at this point. It is an absolute embarrassment to the award and the sport of college football, itself, that it is not. While Te’o the football player, and Manti the man, has provided one of the most exhilarating exemplars of what it means to be a model student athlete in today’s day and age of me-first egotism, it is almost a certainty that he will not win due to the fact that he is a defensive player. Talk about offensive!
On the number one ranked (both overall and defensively) and undefeated Fighting Irish, Te’o is the face of the program. In a season which has featured its share of nail biters for Notre Dame, Manti has anchored a defense that has made not one, but two highly publicized goal line stands to preserve huge victories against Stanford and USC.
At 6-foot-2, 255 pounds, he is an ideal NFL prospect at middle linebacker who can hunt down opposing running backs and blanket tight ends. He has intercepted seven passes this season as a linebacker, tied for second in the nation among all players. He has 103 tackles on the season, 5.5 tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries. And these numbers do not even scratch the golden dome surface of the intangible force he has provided for the nation’s top team.
To sum up the spirit of Te’o, just days after the death of both his grandmother and girlfriend (who passed away within hours of each other), he played at Michigan State, (a team which was then ranked number ten in the country), and collected 12 tackles. He won his highly anticipated match-up with running back Le’ Veon Bell, and proved the meddle of his warrior’s spirit in (both literally and figuratively) spearheading the Irish’s victory. In another top-ten contest with then number eight ranked Oklahoma at Norman, his 11 tackles helped hold OU to 15 yards rushing — the same OU that had bum-rushed Texas two weeks before for 343. Throughout this, his senior season, he has rallied the often offensively-inept Irish and all but carried them on his back to an undefeated record against one of the toughest schedules in the nation. This is the stuff of Hollywood movies, folks. Yet it will likely not be good enough to win the coveted award.
So who will win the 2012 Heisman, you may ask? A redshirt freshman quarterback on a two-loss team nicknamed “Johnny Football” – a kid who has put up huge numbers against some awful competition (SMU, South Carolina State, Sam Houston State?), while also admittedly having one inspiring performance against then top-ranked Alabama. Yes, “Johnny Football” certainly fits in well with the stats and status-oriented showboats of today’s day and age, but is he more “outstanding” than Manti. Vote again.
A Manti Te’o Heisman trophy should be all but polished up in a South Bend trophy case, but given the ludicrousness of college football’s traditions (of which always giving the sport’s most prestigious award to an offensive player is just one), another Charlie Ward/Eric Crouch/Jason White/Matt Leinart/Troy Smith (insert absolutely irrelevant pro/program-produced zero here) will be making his acceptance speech at the Downtown Athletic Club, instead.