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Te’o has all the attributes to win Heisman, except one

By Dave Reardon


“The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work.” — From the Heisman Trust mission statement

“Te’o’s status as a pure defender is kryptonite to his candidacy.” — Chris Huston, publisher, HeismanPundit.com

Barring an injury or a total collapse by Notre Dame in the next month, Fighting Irish linebacker Manti Te’o of Laie will find himself in New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist. But I seriously doubt he will win, although he might very well deserve it.

The vague wording of the Heisman Trust’s criteria does make one thing clear: Character and positive intangibles are to be considered. That leaves room for voters to put Te’o somewhere on their ballot — even if they can’t see the tangibles, like his 10 tackles per game and the five interceptions that are more than any other linebacker in the country.

His thriving on the field despite personal tragedy and comforting of others this fall is well-documented, as is his synergistic effect on not just the Fighting Irish’s defense, but the entire team. And that team is 8-0, ranked fourth in the polls and third in the BCS standings, making Notre Dame one notch away from the national championship game at this point.

Te’o is the best player on one of the nation’s best teams. He could have gone pro after last season, but returned to South Bend to graduate, lead the football team and improve his pass defense (he’s made all of his career interceptions this year).

Hmm … that all sounds like excellence, integrity, great ability, diligence, perseverance and hard work.

BUT THE Heisman is plagued by one of the most ridiculous biases in all of sports. Apparently it’s an unwritten rule that someone who plays on defense exclusively isn’t supposed to win it. No defense-only player has ever won.

Some say Hugh Green should have won the Heisman in 1980. The Pitt defensive end was second, to South Carolina running back George Rogers.

I thought it was more of an injustice 11 years later, when Washington defensive tackle Steve Emtman was fourth and the winner was Desmond Howard, a receiver and kick returner from Michigan.

Emtman was unstoppable, and so were the Huskies that year … undefeated national champions. But Emtman played the wrong position, one where stats don’t tell the story. And in those days it was hard to get noticed nationally in that part of the country.

Playing for Notre Dame, Te’o won’t have a publicity problem. The voters know who he is, and after Saturday’s diving interception to preserve the win at Oklahoma he now has a bona fide so-called “Heisman Moment.” That play, that win — and another down-to-earth humble interview after the game — probably punched his ticket to Manhattan.

But the player from the other Manhattan, Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein, is the front-runner for the Heisman until the Wildcats lose. I won’t argue against Klein at this point; he means as much if not more to his unbeaten team as Te’o does to his.

HERE’S SOMETHING that will never happen, but would level the playing field if the Heisman winner is supposed to be the best player in college football regardless of position. Simply limit the candidates to the winners of the annual awards for each position. O’Brien, Butkus, Biletnikoff, etc., … yeah, even Groza, just for kicks. Those would be your finalists.

With today’s technology, it could be done. But tradition would never allow it. And it probably won’t allow for a pure defensive player to win the Heisman.

It all makes me think back to the play I most remember by Te’o when he was at Punahou. He was at running back and gained just a few yards. But he broke five tackles doing it. If Notre Dame had used Te’o as a short-yardage fullback from the beginning of the season, he might be leading the Heisman race now.

It’s too late to start that now. It would be perceived as a gimmick, and Manti Te’o is the farthest thing from gimmicky.

Reach Dave Reardon at dreardon@staradvertiser.com or 529-4783.

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kahuku01 wrote:
Dave, thanks for the article on Manti and I have an opinion on the Heisman trophy award. Yes, it seems that quarterbacks and running backs seems to be in the running for the Heisman even before the season starts. But all things considered, quarterbacks and running backs have a tremendous amount of support from their teammates. 1. You must be an exceptional player with diligence, perseverance, and hard work. 2. For quarterbacks and running backs: their offensive line must be exceptional in order to be able to execute a good pass or run for long yardage. 3. The receivers can make or break a quarterback. example: quarterback throws the ball for 20 yards and the receiver out maneuvers the defensive players and runs for 60 yards for a touchdown...the quarterback and receiver gets a credit for an 80 yards touchdown and the stats looks good on paper. Whatever happened to Heisman winners, Tebow, Ingram, Leinert and the rest that didn't make it big in the NFL. It is an honor and well deserving for a defensive player to win the Heisman because it is done strictly on an individual performance unlike a quarterback or running back. Manti is an exceptional player with diligence, perseverance, dedication and hard work. What more does he need but for his team to keep winning and stay healthy.
on October 31,2012 | 05:09AM
allie wrote:
well put. Teo is he defensive player of the year but not the Heisman IMO
on October 31,2012 | 09:57AM
StifelHNL wrote:
There is no "strictly individual performance" on the football field. Linebackers need the down linemen to keep the o-line off them, and LBs thrive when corners and Safeties have good coverage and force the qb to pass short. etc. Wasn't Charles Woodson a defensive player? Did he paly special teams? Manti plays special teams.
on October 31,2012 | 01:53PM
nippy68 wrote:
teo in my opinion is clearly the front runner for the heisman. game after game he ends up with double digit tackles with spectacular plays. but whenever i watch college game day on espn the hosts of the show always speak highly of quarterbacks. with barkley, west virginia qb, and others who has lost a game or two are has beens for the trophy. now the only player who stands in teo's way is the frosh qb from k-state. if he continues to win then teo will not win the heisman. why.....politics. i hope i am wrong about this but that is what i feel. teo is the best player to ever to come from hawaii both as a player and person.
on October 31,2012 | 06:21AM
nippy68 wrote:
forgot to add hawaii has home bred players who played in the super bowl / pro bowl , world series / all star , big time college football and president of the usa. it would be icing on the cake if teo wins the heisman.
on October 31,2012 | 06:30AM
waverider808 wrote:
totally agree with you. i was not a teo fan in the beginning having a bias against the puns but that young man is an awesome humble guy who truly deserves the heisman. yes there have been many from the isles but none better in character and integrity than manti te'o.
on October 31,2012 | 02:21PM
joewilly wrote:
I'm so glad he didn't choose to come here. He would have been wasted. Can you imagine him playing for MacMakin orChow?? What a spooky thought on Halloween!!
on October 31,2012 | 07:08AM
Descartes22 wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on October 31,2012 | 08:09AM
allie wrote:
good points
on October 31,2012 | 09:58AM
souzaboy wrote:
One of the best players to win the Heisman was a defensive player, Charles Woodson. And, he still plays! Most the offensive players were that won the Heisman were duds in the NFL, except maybe for Bush. I know its just strictly based on their college performance, but still, I think the Heisman should give it to a defensive player for a change, they work just as hard and have a huge impact on games won.
on October 31,2012 | 10:12AM
waverider808 wrote:
didn't they make bush return the heisman? didn't he cheat? just wondering
on October 31,2012 | 02:23PM
kennie1933 wrote:
Well, for Manti's future, maybe it's better if he doesn't win it. Just being recognized is an honor in itself. Does anyone notice that former Heisman winners don't usually do well in the NFL? Ironically, Charles Woodson, the last defensive player to win it, is doing well. But all the others.....struggling. Part of it is that in the NFL, the worst teams get to pick first so usually, a Heisman winner ends up being drafted by a loser. Also, because you win the Heisman, there is added pressure to succeed. Just like American Idol, sometimes it's the runners-up that become more successful in the long run.
on October 31,2012 | 11:18AM
bluhawaii74 wrote:
RG111 is struggling in the pros?
on October 31,2012 | 11:25AM
kennie1933 wrote:
He might be doing OK for a rookie, but the Redskins are still currently in last place.
on October 31,2012 | 11:43AM
Anonymous wrote:
Skins are on a major upward trajectory.
on October 31,2012 | 05:01PM
BTO wrote:
Maybe it is time to have two Heisman trophy winners - offensive player and defensive player. I know they have the Butkus award but it does not have the same prestige as the Heisman. Defense wins championships so it is time to have two Heisman Trophies awarded. Also we should consider Mariota, when it is said and done we could be looking at Oregon as number one if they get by this week.
on October 31,2012 | 12:16PM
kennie1933 wrote:
It's going to be difficult for Mariota or any of the Ducks to be considered. Part fo the problem for them (though it's a "nice" problem) is that they're blowing away their opponents by halftime so the starters rarely see action in the second half. Not easy to pile up stats that way, and that's what seems to drive Heisman voters....BIG STATS! If Mariota, Barner and Thomas play the entire game, Mariota easily gets 300 yards passing, and the other two get 100-200 yards rushing every game.
on October 31,2012 | 01:21PM
lowtone123 wrote:
Klein is the frontrunner and it's his to lose. Unless he tanks, he will win it. The good folks in South Bend will lobby hard for Te'o but i guess it is harder for a defensive player to get recognized when all you see in the highlights and the stats and the stories are the QB's, RB's & WR's.
on October 31,2012 | 04:44PM
fairgame947 wrote:
Not a Notre Dame fan but sure am a Manti Te`o fan. How proud we ALL are he's from Hawai`i Nei!
on October 31,2012 | 05:09PM
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