No defense for Notre Dame's Te'o not winning Heisman

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Cheers and Jeers,Sports,College,Kevin Dunleavy

Can we stop calling it the Heisman Trophy and name it what it really is: the NCAA offensive player of the year award?

Nothing against Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, but how do you have a more perfect Heisman candidate than Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o?

He rejected the 2012 NFL Draft, in which he was projected to be a first-round pick, to return for his senior season. He was the best player on the nation's only undefeated team. He was the inspirational force of a defense that carried the Fighting Irish from unranked to No. 1. He has a heart-rending back story. He even went beyond the call of duty, making seven interceptions, unheard of for a middle linebacker. Most of all, he played under the watchful eye of Touchdown Jesus for the only college team that can claim a national following.

How did Te'o not win the Heisman? Because he doesn't play offense. If he was a quarterback with those qualifications, he might have won the award unanimously.

The only way for a defensive player to win the Heisman is by default. It nearly happened this year as Matt Barkley, Montee Ball, Landry Jones, Denard Robinson, Geno Smith, AJ McCarron and Braxton Miller played their way out of consideration.

But "Johnny Football" had the nickname, a signature game against Alabama, a season of fancy highlights and admittedly impressive credentials with 24 touchdowns passing and 19 running. The wow factor was enough for voters to overlook his ordinary work in losses, both at home, to Florida and LSU.

Manziel had a Heisman-worthy year. But this season belonged to Te'o -- the perfect candidate on the only unbeaten team eligible to win the title. His stats for his position weren't that far off what Charles Woodson put up as a defensive back in 1997 with Michigan -- the last defensive player to earn the award.

Te'o deserved better given what he meant to his team. Notre Dame doesn't make it to the BCS title game without the play of its defense. There were too many close games that could have gone the other way. Who can forget goal line stands in wins over USC and Stanford? The voters shouldn't have.

- Kevin Dunleavy

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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Kevin Dunleavy

Staff writer - sports
The Washington Examiner