Manti Te’o, Johnny Manziel and Collin Klein are Heisman Trophy finalists
BY MARK LAZERUS firstname.lastname@example.org December 3, 2012 5:32PM
Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein throws during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Texas, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012, in Manhattan, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Updated: December 3, 2012 5:45PM
The idea was so far-fetched, so unfathomable, that it didn’t even seem
feasible in a video game. So Manti Te’o — an inside linebacker since
his Pop Warner days — used to make himself a running back just so he’d
have a shot at a fictional Heisman Trophy.
Well, Te’o moved one step closer to the real thing on Monday, when he
was named one of just three finalists for college football’s most
coveted individual honor. Te’o — who is on a six-city awards tour this
week, which began Monday when he was named the winner of both the
Butkus Award (top linebacker) and Nagurski Award (top defensive
player) — will be in New York for Saturday’s ceremony in Times Square.
Te’o will be joined on stage by Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel
and Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein.
No strictly defensive player ever has won the Heisman — Michigan
cornerback Charles Woodson won in 1997, but he returned punts and
played wide receiver, as well. In order to become the first, Te’o will
have to overcome the frontrunner, Manziel, the redshirt freshman
phenom better known as Johnny Football.
Manziel — also trying to make history as the first freshman to win the
Heisman — rocketed into the national conversation when the Aggies
upset then-No. 1 Alabama three weeks ago, but he put up gaudy numbers
all year long. The dual-threat QB has thrown for 3,419 yards and 24
touchdowns (against eight interceptions) and has run for 1,181 yards
and 19 touchdowns. He broke Cam Newton’s SEC record for total yards in
Te’o is tied for second in the nation in interceptions with seven —
the only linebacker with more than four — and is the undisputed leader
of the nation’s top scoring defense. He led two memorable goal-line
stands that helped the Irish stave off Stanford and USC.
Manziel is the favorite, but it’s not as clear-cut a race as it has
been in recent years. Irish coach Brian Kelly has been stumping hard
for Te’o, pointing out that the best and most important player on the
No. 1 team in the country deserves it most.
“If a guy like Manti Te’o is not going to win the Heisman, they should
just make it an offensive award and just give it to the offensive
player every year and just cut to the chase,” Kelly said following
Notre Dame’s season-finale victory over USC, a win that put the Irish
in the BCS championship game against Alabama. “He is the backbone of a
12-0 football team that has proven itself each and every week. … If
the Heisman Trophy is what it is, I don’t know how Manti Te’o is left
out of that conversation.”