Notre Dame senior linebacker Manti Te’o deserves to win the Heisman Trophy. He is the best player on the best team in the country. Te’o has been instrumental in the success of the Fighting Irish this year, and they would likely have at least a few losses if not for his presence. Te’o has been the at the forefront of the renaissance of the Notre Dame football program.
It is unlikely that Te’o will actually end up as the recipient of the award, though that’s not any fault of his own. There is an obvious bias against defensive players when it comes to Heisman Trophy voting. The only primarily defensive player to win the award was Charles Woodson in 1997, and he won it as much for his receiving and return prowess as for his defensive skills.
The fact that I believe Te’o is deserving of the Heisman Trophy is not to take anything away from the incredible seasons that Collin Klein and Johnny “Football” Manziel have had. Manziel has been one of the most electrifying players in the nation this year, despite the fact that he is just a freshman. Oh, by the way, a freshman has never won the Heisman before.
Klein has put up absolutely incredible numbers this year, amassing 2,490 yards, 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions through the air. He’s also run for 890 yards and another 22 touchdowns. The thing that hurt his chances the most, though, was the fact that he threw three interceptions in Kansas State‘s loss to Baylor.
Te’o’s numbers are only part of the argument for him winning the Heisman. His 101 tackles and seven interceptions are nothing to sneeze at; the other major factor in Te’o’s candidacy is intangible. Everyone always talks of needing to have a “Heisman moment”. In my opinion, Te’o’s “Heisman moment” was an entire game – the fact that he even played against Michigan State just days after the passing of both his grandmother and girlfriend says a lot about his character. The fact that he not only played, but recorded 12 tackles in the game, says a great deal about his football skill.
People will argue that the Te’o is only even being considered for the Heisman because he is at Notre Dame. Yes, the notoriety of the Fighting Irish has not hurt his chances. But would Manziel or Klein be in New York if they were calling plays for Western Kentucky?
Te’o is the captain of one of the top defensive units in the country. His stat lines are good enough to win the award. He has the “Heisman moment”. He has the intangibles. All of those things should combine to net him the 2012 Heisman Trophy. Will the math add up to equal a Heisman Trophy for Te’o?