Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o today became the first Hawaii born and bred player to be invited to New York as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, the most prestigious award in college athletics.
Te’o was one of three players chosen to appear at Saturday’s awarding of the trophy on ESPN. Electronic balloting among 928 voters concluded Monday morning.
Earlier in the day Te’o was announced as the winner of the Butkus Award which goes to the top college linebacker. Later in the day Te’ o added the Bronco Nagurski Trophy as the nation’s top college defensive player to his haul of postseason awards.
Te’o was in Charlotte, N.C. for the Nagurski banquet when his Heisman invitation was announced.
The other Heisman finalists announced today are Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein.
“I don’t think ever, in our wildest dreams we ever thought for one minute (before this season) he would be considered for the Heisman,” Brian Te’o, Manti’s father, told the Star-Advertiser prior to the announcement.
The highest finish by a Hawaii born and bred player was a fourth in 1945 by running back Herman Wedemeyer, a Saint Louis School graduate who played for St. Mary’s (Calif.).
UH’s Colt Brennan was third in 2007 behind Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and Arkansas running back Darren McFadden.
The announcement of finalists for the Heisman Trophy comes amid growing anticipation of a tight finish between Te’o, a senior, and Manziel. Most projections have had Manziel as the favorite since he sparked the upset of then-No.1-ranked Alabama Nov. 10. But Te’o, who has helped lead the Fighting Irish to a 12-0 record and a berth in the Jan. 7 Bowl Championship Series game, has been surging lately, according to polls.
USA Today said its final survey of a sampling of Heisman voters indicates, “a likely photo finish” between the two.
In the 77-year history of the Heisman, no purely defensive performer or freshman has the award.
Michigan’s Charles Woodson, a defensive back-wide receiver, won the award in 1997. The highest finish by an exclusively defensive performer was second by Pittsburgh defensive end Hugh Green in 1980. South Carolina running back George Rodgers won the Heisman that year.
Te’o started off his postseason awards haul today with the announcement he is the winner of the 28th annual collegiate Butkus Award. The award will be presented Dec. 17 at Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.
Te’o was selected by a panel of 51 coaches, recruiters, scouts and journalists coordinated by Pro Football Weekly, the Butkus announcement said.
Te’o also won the high school Butkus Award as a senior at Punahou School.