One of the biggest myths involved with the Heisman Trophy is that the award should be given to preferably a quarterback with all other offensive positional players taking a back seat while the defensive side of the ball never gets any love. Certainly there have been a number of defensive players in the past 76 years who thought that they were good enough to be deemed the best player in college football. But only one, Charles Woodson, was awarded the Heisman Trophy while playing cornerback and returning punts.
Woodson was an outstanding corner while at the University of Michigan, and probably could have won the award without the aid of a few highlight plays while returning punts. No one will ever know if playing only defense would have garnered Woodson the Heisman, but we will know by the end of this year if the best player in college football can be just a defensive player. No flashy punt returns and no highlight reel runs or catches, just a hard-nosed defensive masterpiece, who also happens to be the best player in college football. Of course, if you don’t already know, this player is none other than Notre Dame Linebacker Manti Te’o.
Te’o has been the stabilizing force of a stout Notre Dame defense, one that has stifled every opponent thrown its way. Additionally, Te’o has not had the luxury of working behind an electric offense–Notre Dame ranks 48th in total offense. Time and time again Te’o and the Notre Dame defense have been pinned with their backs against the wall, needing a stop to save their season and BCS title hopes.The goal-line stand at home against Stanford is the perfect example of the toughness Te’o oozes, a toughness that rubs off on his teammates, propelling them to greater things. Coming into this season Notre Dame was not even ranked but as it stands now, they sit atop the college football world.
The two main candidates, Manti Te’o and Johnny Manziel, have concluded their seasons, and both will have no game action between now and the Heisman ceremony on December 8th. Both players have played 12 games, and while Te’o is not the only reason why Notre Dame is 12-0, he did play a huge part in it, and they couldn’t have done it without him. Likewise, Manziel is not the only reason why Texas A&M went 10-2, but he did play a huge part in it, including their two losses to Florida and LSU. Manziel played well against Florida, but just couldn’t close the deal late, and the Aggies suffered a slim, three-point loss.
The second loss of the Aggies’ season once again came at home, this time to LSU. Manziel put up shaky numbers as he went 29-56 for 276 yards while tossing three interceptions. Manziel was stymied by a stingy LSU defense, and was forced into some bad throws, contributing in large part to Texas A&M’s 24-19 loss. That’s the difference between Te’o and Manziel.
While no one is perfect, it does not seem like Te’o made any big mistakes this season, at least not the ones that would put his team in a position to lose a game. Manziel did. Being a freshman should not count against Manziel; if you’re good, you’re good, regardless of your academic class.
But just because Manziel is a quarterback does not mean his accomplishments should be elevated and his mistakes downplayed. Once Matt Barkley and Colin Klein‘s Heisman hopes went out the window, the media and general public searched desperately for a flashy player on a good team putting up solid stats. They turned to Manziel, who was very good this season, but Te’o was nearly perfect. Having the better team should not be the sole determinant in the winner of the Heisman like it has been before, but it should play a factor. Johnny Manziel 10-2, Manti Te’o 12-0. Case closed.
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