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Even without Heisman, Te’o’s season one for the ages

Dec 8, 2012, 9:29 PM EDT

2012 Heisman Trophy Presentation Getty Images

In the end, the pull of Johnny Football, and the traditional voting preference for an offensive player, was too much for even Manti Te’o to overcome.

But make no mistake, Saturday night’s Heisman Trophy ceremony was another celebration of Te’o’s excellence this season, an award that’s aspirations were all but defined by Notre Dame’s star linebacker’s excellence on the field and courage off of it.

Still, Heisman voters handed the victory to redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel rather emphatically, with Manziel garnering 474 first place votes, easily besting Te’o’s 321 and Kansas State quarteback Collin Klein’s 60. The young quarterback who dazzled voters with a highlight reel that featured incredible runs and sterling passing numbers, carried every region of voting except for the Midwest. His victory over No. 1 Alabama likely overshadowed any missteps, whether they be off the field arrests or three-interception games.

Before anybody loses sleep mourning the loss for Te’o, consider the effect the Hawaiian linebacker had on college football this year. Heralded all week for his tremendous season, Te’o’s trophy case won’t miss the bronze stiff-arming ball carrier, as it’ll be filled with the Bednarik, Butkus, Nagurski, Lombardi, Maxwell and Walter Camp awards. That’s the most awards a defensive player has won in college football’s history, surpassing Heisman winner Charles Woodson, who took home five postseason awards in 1997.

Almost more impressive was the effect Te’o had on the crowd in New York Saturday evening. The room looked like a Hawaiian Luau, with the room filled with leis and traditional Hawaiian beads, decor even worn by Manziel’s family. Sure, the trophy is heading to College Station. But in a room filled with some of the biggest legends of the college game, Te’o’s stamp was all over. It’s hard to find a truer sign of respect than that.

In the end, Te’o was likely done in by the voters who kept him off their ballot completely. Te’o’s 321 first place votes was the second-most for a Heisman runner-up ever. Whether those voters thought there were three better players than Te’o in college football or didn’t believe a middle linebacker is deserving of college football’s most prestigious trophy is largely a moot point by now.

Second place will never be confused with the winner of anything. But with Te’o leading the Irish to the national championship game, and Notre Dame’s heart and soul representing the school and college football with such dignity, it’s hard to call Manti Te’o anything but a winner.


  1. aceinthehole12 - Dec 8, 2012 at 9:37 PM

    Am I the only one not really disappointed though ? Heisman at this point is all about the QB and RB…..but oh well. Manti is about to play for something Manziel, probably won’t ever, the national title. The mental image of Manti holding that crystal football and becoming a ND legend is greater than that of him holding that offense-only award.

    • drdannddad - Dec 9, 2012 at 7:09 AM

      I was disappointed, but not surprised. It would have been great for ND to have another Heisman winner, but there is a much bigger prize in play next month. That’s the one that really matters!

      It was great to see the ND Heisman winners sitting there with Manti. That was pretty cool! Several generations of ND legends.

    • nudeman - Dec 9, 2012 at 9:29 AM

      Uh … no. You’re not the only one. He won 17 awards, the Irish are 12-0, Manti is going to sign a $500M contract in about 6 months to play football for a living, and frankly … I was getting completely sick of the Heisman stuff.

      I want to hear another Heisman story like I want to hear two Senators arguing about the fiscal cliff.

      Onward …

      • domer77blowsgoats - Dec 9, 2012 at 10:23 AM

        Yup these award shows are much better when we are 3-9 and have no horse in the race.

        Way too much love for Manti!!

        Lets get this season over with so we can get back to talking nothing but recruiting hyperbole in our local AZ men’s locker rooms!!!

  2. kiopta1 - Dec 8, 2012 at 9:43 PM

    Yeah not surprised at all. The Heisman is nothing more than a media hypefest for which ever offensive player plays the most video game football. Proud as heck of Manti and this Irish team.


    • tedlinko - Dec 9, 2012 at 3:43 AM

      It speaks volumes that Teo won both the Maxwell and the Walter Camp — both of which are voted on by a smaller pool of voters, primarily coaches AD’s and others close to the sport. Thus, it’s much less subject to the silly media hype that surrounds the heisman.

      And Keith is right — even though he didn’t win the actual award, Manti was really the focal point of the awards show tonight. It is almost as though the producers recognized that Teo was the most compelling – and I’d argue the most deserving – finalist, even as the voters gave the trophy to the freshman.

      Obviously I’m not unbiased, but even if it weren’t for Manti, I’d question giving the Heisman to a first year player. Although it is supposed to be about the best player THIS YEAR, having a little bit of tenure lends credibility to one’s performance. I’ll be curious to see if the kid can maintain this level next year or if this season – and that bama game in particular – will prove to have been a bit of a flash in the pan. Only time will tell.

  3. 9irish - Dec 8, 2012 at 9:43 PM

    Well, I was a little disappointed, but not surprised. And I will say that Manziell seems like a polished guy (no, I am really not shocked about underage drinking…if so, I guess I’m going to hell). But Te’o put up a fight and sent a message.

    Just glad it’s over. Manti and Coach Kelly need to go back to South Bend and sleep for about 3 days, then get busy on the BIG prize!

    Go Irish

    • aceinthehole12 - Dec 8, 2012 at 9:50 PM

      I think Manti might have paved the way for future defenders. I’ve been waiting to see one win for the longest. Heck I’d take a TE, WR etc too. It’s a shame only RB or QB can be the “best” in college football it seems.

      • 9irish - Dec 9, 2012 at 9:04 AM

        If only he could’ve taken 1 or 2 of those INTs or fumbles back to the endzone, might have worked out differently. Not fair, but I think it’s probably a fact.

  4. kiopta1 - Dec 8, 2012 at 9:46 PM

    The only trophy that really matters is the crystal football. Would love to see how the votes broke down between media and past winners’ votes.

    • 9irish - Dec 8, 2012 at 9:51 PM

      that would be interesting to see

    • papadec - Dec 9, 2012 at 6:52 PM

      kiopta – I’d be more interested in seeing who didn’t even vote for him!

  5. bernhtp - Dec 8, 2012 at 10:11 PM

    The Heisman outcome doesn’t diminish Manti’s achievement, but the value of their award.

  6. bogtrottin - Dec 8, 2012 at 10:35 PM

    Looking at the vote tallies between first thru third for each guy, my question is, how the hell do you put Teo below Klein? I mean, come on. That was a lot of voters either voting strategically to make sure their guy (Manziel) had as much separation as possible from Teo, or they’re just unwilling to countenance a defender in there at all.

  7. Seamus - Dec 8, 2012 at 11:59 PM

    Disappointed but not surprised. Te’o is already a legend in ND football, 11th hour switch from SC to ND, 4 year starter, most decorated player in college football history, Captain and anchor of arguably the best defense in college football and playing for a NC. All this in a year that ND was expected to go 6-6 or 7-5. Defense wins championships. Lets focus on Bama and finish this season off right!


    GO IRISH!!!

  8. barneysbullet - Dec 9, 2012 at 12:17 AM

    Manti, let Johnny Football have that “offensive” trophy. So proud of all YOU won but more importantly of WHO you are!!


  9. gtizzo - Dec 9, 2012 at 12:50 AM

    Jim Rome was on Leno last night. He said Manti was the best college athlete interview he had ever had on his show. I think Manti won himself a fan…not bad considering Jim Rome is a Southern California guy. Everyone in sports or sports media should be a fan of Manti Te’o. He is everything that is right in sports.

    • jerseyshorendfan1 - Dec 9, 2012 at 1:56 AM

      Manti received more votes for the Heisman than any other purely defensive player in the history of the award. Quite an accomplishment. Its alright Manti, just bring home the next trophy that you see.

  10. norcalirish - Dec 9, 2012 at 2:16 AM

    bernhtp: I couldn’t have said it better. That “award” isn’t gonna get any of my time in the future, but the Maxwell will.

  11. smcgaels1997 - Dec 9, 2012 at 4:26 AM

    The Heisman was won the minute the media crowned him “Johnny Football” ..nevermind his 2 losses were stastically the worst for a Heisman winner ever. I’m sorry but Teo was more deserving and I’m willing to bet he’d put Johnny in the ground trying to “dazzle” ND with his running…Teo put together 12 games… Johnny 8-9 at best

    • yogihilt - Dec 9, 2012 at 9:28 AM

      Agree with all wholeheartedly, but Paul Hornung went 2-8 in ’56 winning his Heisman for ND. But he did it all on both sides of ball.

  12. yaketyyacc - Dec 9, 2012 at 4:53 AM

    we are all subjectively involved with Manti T’eo. It is hard, now, to stand back and be objective. If we could, we would realize that Manti T’eo far exceeds his awards, or even the “Glass” trophy.
    Absolutely, Keith, it was almost embarassing to see the winner of the Heisman so dwarfed by the runner up. For the entire broadcast to be influenced by the runner up.
    There is something very special about this young man, transcending sport and awards. Glad to be able to say Manti T’eo of Notre Dame.

  13. jackm1184 - Dec 9, 2012 at 5:02 AM

    I must admit, with my bias, I was prepared to hate Johnny “football.” But even so, he seemed like a nice kid. Wish manti would have taken it home, but there isn’t an Irish fan alive who would take the heisman over the crystal football. Manti will play 10 years plus in the NFL and join the likes of both Mannings, Andrew luck, and countless others who finished runner up and went on to storied pro careers. Nice a kid as he seems, Johnny football will be the next Jason white, Danny Wuerfell and another set of countless others who don’t… Miami is the important thing. Go Irish

  14. joeschu - Dec 9, 2012 at 8:33 AM

    I am really disappointed. I think guys like Herbstreit and ESPN have far too much influence on the sport.

    I’m sure this kid who won is a fine young man, but he’s got 3 more years to validate whether or not he was a flash in the pan. We’ve seen Te’o’s entire body of work and he ended it by being the best player on the best team in the country. Moreover, he’s done it with class, academic success, tremendous leadership, and a tremendous heart for those in need.

    The Heisman Trust had an opportunity to make a statement around doing things the right way.

    Here’s how I’ve made my peace with all of this:

    If the Heisman Trust wants guys like Cam Newton, and Troy Smith and Reggie Bush (yes, I know it was subsequently vacated) as their legacy, then I’m glad to see Te’o’s name on every OTHER award this season, and I’ll cherish that picture of him hoisting a crystal football in a few weeks.

    • yogihilt - Dec 9, 2012 at 9:34 AM

      And all of ESPN’s last weeks hype of Manti, including Herbstreit, came after all the votes were turned in by Dec 2. The preceeding 2 weeks before that date was ‘Here’s Johnny, after A&M beat ‘Bama, I stated earlier in the week that The Maxwell has always been my favorite award.
      Get the Chip

  15. nudeman - Dec 9, 2012 at 9:31 AM

    Anybody for a fiscal cliff discussion?

    • yogihilt - Dec 9, 2012 at 10:07 AM

      What is ESPN’s take?

      • nudeman - Dec 9, 2012 at 10:13 AM

        They’re going to Ed Cunningham LIVE now, in Washington.
        Bob Ley: “Ed?”
        Ed: “Thanks Bob. Where did you say this cliff is? I’m at 15th and C and it’s pretty flat here”.
        Bob: “Groan. Folks … we apologize”

        Anybody remember that color analyst/clown from the ND/Wake game last year?

  16. goirishgo - Dec 9, 2012 at 9:36 AM

    Let’s play football! Go Irish!

  17. ljdublin - Dec 9, 2012 at 10:14 AM

    Is it just my ND bias or did ESPN spend more time during the program last night (pre award) with discussions on Manziel than the other 2 candidates, as if ESPN already knew the results? Nice article Keith, could not have put it better insofar as the lasting impact this young man, Te’o, will have on both ND, the football world and his peers overall, as well as a chance for one more trophy tonight in California. In reading the SB Tribune, Louis Nix made a profound statement about reading the Heisman mission statement and placing Manti’s picture next to it. What a glowing testimonial from a teammate and friend.

    GO IRISH, roll the Tide!!!!!

  18. irishking - Dec 9, 2012 at 10:41 AM

    Right now the focus should be on Alabama and the Irish will be ready.

  19. packhawk04 - Dec 9, 2012 at 11:30 AM

    Im sorry, but i love the comments that manti “paved the way” for future defensive players to win the award. Well, charles woodson says maybe manti just didnt do enough.

  20. North of Denver - Dec 9, 2012 at 12:22 PM

    Manziel arrested? When/What was that?!

    • runners00 - Dec 10, 2012 at 2:38 PM

      It was earlier this year. DUI.

      You’ll never hear about any of this stuff because it conflicts with the story line (of Johnny Football dreaming every night about a backyard scramble against Alabama or whatever). But, yes, the man was arrested for drinking and driving in June of this year. No suspension or penalty at all — heck, the guy won the Heisman.

      As I said in a previous comment, picking the year’s best player is a really difficult job. Te’o had a great season. Manziel had a great season. Klein had a great season. But the idea that Johnny was somehow better than Tim Tebow or better than the Auburn kid Cam Newton is crazy. Circumstances — schedules, running backs, supporting cast and the like — are different. That’s not to say he had an average year. He had a great year, but he was hardly as dominant as the press and the storyline made him.

      That said, it’s almost impossible to imagine a defensive player winning the trophy. Honestly. There are too many variables at work for a defensive player to win the Heisman. For one thing, there are so many voters and many of these voters only tune in toward the end of the year. It should really be an award for the best quarterback, receiver or running back. Those are the players who have the best chance to prove their worth on an individual basis. And that is what Heisman voters want. Sure, Manti could have 20 sacks and 15 interceptions and the like — but even in that situation, there would likely be a quarterback that’s perceived as being more important to his team than Manti.

      One more note (and I mentioned it earlier):AJ McCarron had a great year — an incredible one, actually — and really should have been a Heisman candidate. He didn’t have as many yards as Manziel but he had 26 TDs against just 3 INTs.

  21. sullyp18 - Dec 9, 2012 at 12:41 PM

    Greg Bryant, welcome to Notre Dame. Fantastic get for The Irish, just look at his offer list. GO IRISH!!!

  22. ajw21 - Dec 9, 2012 at 12:43 PM

    Greg Bryant is Irish!
    Go Irish!

  23. dinklespiel - Dec 9, 2012 at 3:05 PM

    My lord I’ve never read so many sad sob comments in my life. Enough sour grapes to make a whole keg of vinegar to drown your sorrows.


    • papadec - Dec 9, 2012 at 7:00 PM

      dinkle – back under the bridge troll – back under the bridge!

    • irish4006 - Dec 10, 2012 at 2:34 PM

      You think those were all sob comments? I thought people above mostly said that although they were disappointed, they understood… also, for the fans, a win on January 7th is more important than any award they can think of. Can you even read, moron?

  24. dinklespiel - Dec 10, 2012 at 12:06 AM


    Mi Culpa. New to the Internet blogging scene and did not realize it was impolite to say something negative on someone else’s blog-o-sphere.

    Looking for a suitable bridge to hide under.

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