Notre Dame middle linebacker Manti Te’o is the best player in college football and as a result should win the Heisman trophy.
The captain of the Fighting Irish defense consistently was the best player on the best team in the nation and if that isn’t worthy of winning the Heisman trophy, then I don’t know what a player has to do to win the most prestigious individual honor in college athletics.
The definition for the Heisman changes from year to year, but the one constant has been that defensive players essentially are excluded from recognition.
Charles Woodson is the only player to win the Heisman while playing defense, but he needed to be the best returner in college as well as contributing on offense.
Pittsburgh defensive end, Hugh Green, finished second in the voting in 1980 to South Carolina running back George Rogers, despite 17 sacks, 123 total tackles, seven forced fumbles, four recoveries and 17 quarterback hurries.
Those astonishing numbers weren’t enough for Green, so what hope does Te’o have?
I’ll make the case for Te’o whose Irish play Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game as a result of the 12-0 record in large part because of the defense anchored by the senior linebacker.
He captained a defense that gave up an average of 10.3 points per game which was second in the nation. The 286.8 yards given up per game were good enough to rank sixth in the country as teams found crossing into Notre Dame territory a daunting task all season long.
In fact, in half of the games this season Notre Dame’s opponents didn’t even cross the goal line. Furthermore, in three-quarters of the team’s games, opponents scored one or fewer touchdowns.
Those stats are impressive, but when you consider Notre Dame was starting Everett Golson, a redshirt freshman at quarterback, it didn’t put added pressure on the inexperienced signal caller to win games on the strength of his arm all by his lonesome.
But if you want individual stats, Te’o has impressive stats to boost his Heisman resume as well.
103 tackles, seven interceptions, 5.5 tackles for loss, four pass breakups, two fumble recoveries and 1.5 sacks.
His seven interceptions aren’t a misprint and were good enough to rank second in the nation, which is even more incredible when you consider the position he plays.
Eclipsing the century mark in tackles also put him in rare company at Notre Dame, and is only the second Golden Domer to record three straight 100 tackle campaigns–which is ridiculously impressive considering the program has been around since the 19th century.
You want a Heisman moment? I’ll give you three.
He’s chock full of intangibles as well which don’t show up on the box score and aren’t easy for an untrained eye to pick up on.
His leadership, work ethic, character, perseverance, commitment and determination are six more reasons why this team is undefeated and in the national championship game. Te’o could have left school early last year and been a first-round draft pick, but decided to finish what he started at South Bend.
Without Te’o patrolling the middle of the field on defense and pushing and willing each of his teammates on defense and on defense, this team is likely 7-5 and playing in the Sun Bowl.
If that’s not enough evidence to convince you that Te’o is the Heisman winner this season, then let’s just change the award to the Offensive Player of the Year award, because ignoring a talent like Te’o for college football’s most prestigious award is beyond ignorant.
He’s not the stereotypical Heisman candidate, and that’s why he should win the award.
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Patrick is a diehard Chicago sports and an avid college football fan, and the host of “The Wake-up Call,” a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com airing live on Wednesday mornings from 8-10. View his show’s website here.