Being an old-school guy, I spent an hour trying to remove Johnny Manziel from the top spot on my ballot. There’s simply no way I was voting for a freshman. But hard as I tried, I couldn’t find a reason to knock him down a peg or two.
It was close to enough that Johnny Football is second in the nation in total offense. But then he goes and beats ’Bama at ’Bama and the Aggies finish 10-2 and tie for second in the brutally tough SEC West in a season made all the more spectacular because he’s a freshman.
Do you know where Texas A&M was in the preseason rankings? Nowhere to be found. And that wasn’t because the Aggies lacked talent. It was because it’s a reach to expect teams with freshman quarterbacks to have any kind of sustained success, particularly in the SEC.
Manziel made it happen, finishing 32nd in the nation in rushing, as well as 16th in passing yards and QB rating. And he beat ’Bama at ’Bama. ’Nuff said.
If the Heisman Trophy truly “epitomizes great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work,” then Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o should walk away with the sport’s most cherished award.
While Te’o statistics are not as magnetic as Johnny Manziel or Collin Klein, it is the Fighting Irish, not Texas A&M or Kansas State, who flawlessly navigated the nation’s most challenging schedule thanks to an impenetrable defense led by Te’o. And Te’o performed at a high level often while competing with a heavy heart.
After back-to-back victories over Navy and Purdue, Te’o’s grandmother and girlfriend died within hours of each other, but the Irish’s captain didn’t miss a snap in practice and led his team to a convincing triumph at Michigan State. The next week, on the day his girlfriend was laid to rest, Te’o intercepted one-time Heisman hopeful Denard Robinson twice in a seven-point win over Michigan. As a huge underdog going to Oklahoma, Te’o collected 11 tackles, a sack and an interception in a victory that raised the stakes on the Irish’s national championship dreams.
This isn’t about who throws for the most yards or runs for the most touchdowns. It’s about rewarding the nation’s top player. Wrong side of the football or not, the country’s best player is Manti Te’o.
I voted for Collin Klein of Kansas State, then Manti Te’o of Notre Dame second and Montee Ball of Wisconsin third.
Klein got my vote because I believe one bad game against Baylor shouldn’t trump a whole season of outstanding play against strong competition. People don’t realize how “miraculous” it is for Kansas State to be in the conversation for Top 10. Klein and coach Bill Snyder, of course, are responsible. K-State used to be the laughingstock of its conference – and I mean the '40s, '50s, '60s and '70s particularly.
Te’o is a remarkable player, leader and a good citizen who helped bring Notre Dame back to a level that some thought it could never attain again. Ball has been a productive running back for a strong team in a good conference throughout his career and a record setter this season. I was leaning toward USC quarterback Matt Barkley, but he never could get on track, then got hurt.
It may be old-fashioned but I didn’t like the idea of voting for a freshman (Johnny Football) . My vote, historically, has almost never gone to the winner, but I don’t like the idea of some media outlets telling me who is going to win before the votes are in. It’s like the networks projecting the winner of an election before the polls close on the West Coast. Some Heisman voters, who don’t know better, vote for the projected winner just to go along.