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Manti T’eo, A Deserving Heisman Candidate

Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Manti Te’o (5) celebrates in game action. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish defeated the Michigan Wolverines by the score of 13-06, at Notre Dame Stadium, in South Bend, IN. (Photo – IconSMI / Robin Alam)

The Heisman Trust states that “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.”  This is a perfect description of Manti Te’o.  Te’o is a part of a two horse race between himself and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel for college football’s top individual prize.  Both players have impressive stats but Te’o excels in every way including intangibles and representing the spirit of the Heisman in ways Manziel cannot come close to equalling.

Those arguing in favor of Manziel to be the Heisman winner point to the fact he has a Heisman moment, guiding the Aggies to a road victory over then number one ranked Alabama, while Te’o doesn’t possess such a moment, this notion is absurd.  Te’o has led the Irish on two legendary goal line stands, one against Stanford in the pouring rain and another against USC to solidify the Irish’s trip to the national championship.  These goal line stands symbolized the toughness of the Notre Dame defense, a defense led by Te’o, which takes its attitude from its senior leader.  The Notre Dame defense and entire team for that matter are a reflection of Te’o, the team plays for each other and never gives up despite the odds, a team that takes the fight to the opponent instead of sitting back and playing not to lose.  These intangibles all symbolize the spirit of Notre Dame, which Te’o has resurrected.  Te’o also has a Heisman moment against Oklahoma, a team favored by double digits against the Irish, his fourth quarter interception of Sooners quarterback Landry Jones led to a game-clinching filed goal and established on primetime television as the world watched that Notre Dame is back.

Furthermore Te’o has 103 tackles, seven interceptions, good for second in the nation, two fumble recoveries, and eleven pass defenses.  Te’o has had some games where he hasn’t had ground-breaking stat totals, but has never had an off game to the degree of costing his team a victory, as even when he is slowed down he makes sure the rest of the defense is in the right position to make plays.  Te’o leads the number one defense in the nation, a unit that triumphs with its back to the goal line and makes opposing offenses earn every inch, a defense that has yet to have an awful game.  Manziel on the other hand has produced great stats, throwing for 3419 yards and 24 touchdowns while completing 68 percent of his passes, to go along with 1181 yards and 19 touchdowns rushing, but has had off games.  Manziel is in an offense made for him to rack up numbers win or lose; however, he has had poor outings which have led to his team’s two losses.  Manziel threw for only 173 yards and no touchdowns, while rushing for only 60 in a loss to Florida, and played horrendously in a loss to LSU, throwing three interceptions while completing barely over 50 percent of his passes, and rushing for a mere 27 yards on 17 carries, not exactly Heisman-like performances.  Also Te’o is a consensus first team all-American, while Manziel is not, and it seems ridiculous to have a Heisman trophy winner who isn’t an all-American.

Additionally Te’o’s story is story book, returning Notre Dame to glory and capturing the heart of a nation after playing in the same week he lost both his girlfriend and grandmother, and doing it all with a team expected to lose five games this season.  On the other hand Manziel is just another spread quarterback racking up huge numbers.  It is impressive he has done so as a freshman in the SEC, but he wasn’t even on the Heisman radar before the Alabama victory and quite frankly doesn’t possess Te’o’s body of work throughout the season.  Manziel doesn’t have the intangibles of Teo as he is a freshman and is not the undisputed leader of his team, not to mention his arrest for disorderly conduct, not exactly what the Heisman statement symbolizes a player to be.

The Heisman symbolizes more than just stats; it symbolizes a player and a type of person which Te’o fits perfectly.  Manti Te’o is the best player of the best team in the nation and as his head coach Brian Kelly has said if Te’o doesn’t win the Heisman it might as well become an offense only award.  It’s simple, Te’o has been the man all year, Manziel is just the flavor of the month.


  1. Seriously, Manti had no right to be on that stage for Heisman. He is a “good” player but he is not great. Notre Dame played teams that are normally relatively strong teams but this year Notre Dame’s schedule was weak. He was totally useless during the championship game. The only reason he was even considered was because he plays on the over rated media favorite had no right to be playing for the National Championship “Wimpy Irish”



    • You mean “help” from the officials. Pittsburgh and Stanford were both “give me’s” by the officials. Notre Dame is not all that which Alabama proved in a major way. My team, Tennessee which currently stinks, gave Bama a better game. Tennessee did not even finish with a winning record. Lets you know just how over rated Notre Dame is.

  4. once in a lifetime

  5. JDH,

    Klein and Manti did not get arrested! So let me get this right, a jailbird is more deserving than these two?? Sorry JDH, to expound on the “Heisman Trust Mission Statement” then spin 180 and extol Manziel??? Are you kidding me? Go lay that false-hearted holier-than-thou crap on some other board. Next, I suppose you will be advocating collective salvation? But in your case, rules and virtues are vaporous at your whim. The Heisman is now morally corrupt and you damn well know it.

  6. I hear you, JTRAIN, I hear you. It’s frustrating to hear people downplay Manti’s stats. I think Manziel and Klein are fine players. But their stats get padded by playing weak opponents and in Klein’s case in a conference that doesn’t seem to play D at all. Something like 51% of Manziel’s total passing TDs came against FCS schools or bad SEC teams. Bottom line is “Johnny Football” won the Heisman by playing well in 1 game! Manti brought it the whole season!

    Now it’s time to refocus on the NC game against Bama.

    Here Come the Irish!

    • Holy cow! Manziel plays in the toughest conference in the nation. Manti was absolutley useless against Bama. Before opening mouth check your stats.

  7. JDH

    I think Manti would agree. I’m sure winning the heisman was important to him but he has always said that the NC was priority #1. Great thing about Te’o, you can actually believe that. In re-reading my post I can see how it comes off like I think Manziel is undeserving but that’s not what I think. I guess it came from all the people calling Te’o’s stats average while omitting the eye popping 7ints. Just frustration I guess. Congrats to Manziel.

  8. Now that the “Heisman Trust Mission Statement” has clearly been repudiated with it’s 2012 selection. Investigate further on ESPN’s front page: Texas A&M’s (vainglorious) marketing blitz of the NEW, IMPROVED and NOW “Johnny Heisman!”

    I wonder if they will hand-out false driver’s licenses to incoming freshman autographed by “Johnny Heisman?”

    Yeah, definately a “service to our youth!”

  9. No hate, “Buckeye,” but read the Heisman mission statement and tell me that it’s only about players on O winning.

    The Heisman should just rewrite its mission statement to eliminate character and defensive players from ever being eligible.

    I don’t know if there was an anti-ND bias or not, but there certainly is an anti-D bias.

    • My .02:

      I am disappointed that Manti didn’t win, but it’s hardly a suprise. We’ve known for years that it is an offensive stats / offensive hype award. That being said, I also completely disagree with denigrating Manziel and anybody on this board doing it should reexamine their heads. By most accounts, he seems like a very good and decent kid who is one hell of an athlete. He had a fake id? OH NO! Let’s castigate him for life! (so do most college kids) Fine, he made a mistake as a kid. Certainly no bigger than Tommy Rees, Calabrese, Michael Floyd etc. made as kids. Let’s get real and stop casting stones at relatively minor offenses and lessons learned.

      This team and Teo have set numerous amazing records this year- unranked to #1 / undefeated, Teo winning 6 majors in one year etc. He didn’t get the Heisman and it’s too bad. Oh well…

      But that hardly makes Johnny Manziel “undeserving”.

      How about everybody take a page from TEO’S BOOK of class, humility and Godliness? As Teo said repeatedly, Manziel deserves it just as much he does. The title game is about 1000X more important.

      • BTW SFR, my comments weren’t directed at you, but to the board in general. FYI my friend…

      • JDH,

        None taken!

        You make good points and I wasn’t taking a cheap shot at either Klein or Manziel who both seem to come from decent, Christian families.

        Of course, my point wasn’t that Manziel was undeserving. I don’t think that’s what JC, Shaz, or JTRAIN were saying either (although I don’t want to speak for anyone else and apologize if I over-stepped my bounds). I think the point we’re all trying to make, and I think you’d agree with us, is that if the Heisman were true to its mission statement, Manti was the most deserving of the 3.

        But it’s said and and done. Like you say, “Oh well….”

        I guess Manti will just have to “settle” for all those other trophies he’s won lately and the NC!

      • SFR,
        I agree completely. I do think Teo was more deserving, especially given the actual definition of the Heisman. Let’s bring home the NC and all will be forgotten!

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