Saturday night is going to be a historic one, no doubt about it. I just hope we don't lose sight of everything.
Saturday night a Heisman winner is going to be announced. The two front-runners are Texas A&M quarterback Johnny "Football" Manziel and Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o. The third and final invitee was Kansas State quarterback Colin Klein, who put Wildcats football on the map and even had them ranked number one at one point. Klein had a fantastic year, but with all due respect to him, he is going to finish in third.
Which is where things become interesting. Manziel is a freshman, and no freshman (true or redshirt) has ever won the Heisman before. Te'o, a senior, is a linebacker, and no linebacker has won the Heisman before either.
Manziel led Texas A&M to a 10-2 record in his first year as a starter and the teams first season in the SEC. Manziel threw for 3,419 yards, 24 touchdowns, eight interceptions, and added 1,181 rush yards and an additional 19 touchdowns, giving him an astonishing 4,600 yards of total offense and 43 touchdowns.
Te'o has been fantastic. He had 103 tackles, two and a half sacks, and seven intercptions. He'll win the Butkus award (given to the best linebacker) by a landslide. Even if you throw away his personal statistics, Te'o is the leader on one of the best defenses in the country, for the best team in the country.
Again, Te'o was great this year, but Heisman worthy? Let's not get crazy. This is Johnny's football trophy to lose.
Besides the fact that Manziel put up similar numbers to Cam Newton, one of the best collegiate seasons of all-time, I don't even think Te'o is the best defensive player we've seen the last seven years– heck, he wasn't even the best linebacker we've seen the last seven years.
If a defensive player is going to win the Heisman again, he better be fill up the stat sheet in every category. Te'o's 103 tackles are good, as are his seven interceptions, but he is a guy who doesn't get to the quarterback a lot (at least for a Heisman winner) and he didn't any touchdowns or play a role on special teams. It may sound ridiculous to criticize a linebacker for not scoring touchdowns or impacting the game in special teams, but if a defensive player is going to win the most prestigious college football award, he needs to be a stat sheet filler.
Te'o definitely hasn't been the best front seven player we've seen. Alabama's Derrick Thomas had an absurd 27 sacks in 1988. You could make the argument that Penn State's Lavar Arrington had a better year than Te'o in 1998. Paul Posluszny recorded 116 tackles in 2006, along with 9.5 tackles for loss, thee sacks and two forced fumbles. Those numbers are probably the most comparative to Te'o this year, and Posluszny wasn't even on the ballot. Ndamkon Suh had 85 tackles, 12 sacks, 3 blocked kicks, and an interception in 2009. If any front seven player was going to win it, it would be him.
I've even heard the argument that Te'o life story should play a factor in voting. Te'o has an incredible story. He's by all accounts on of the hardest working guys in football and had to overcome the loss of his grandmother and girlfriend in a short span of time.
The mission statement for the Heisman Trust also speaks of giving the award to those who "symbolize the fostering of a sense of community responsibility and service to our youth" and those who "epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work". These quotes, they say, show that the Heisman is not only an award for the best football player but the best football player who is also the best person. Those who say that must forget that just a few years earlier Cam Newton was arrested for stealing another student's laptop and kicked off the Florida football program. What a guy!
The Heisman is a football award. I trust that the voters will keep this in mind when they look at the three players and understand Johnny Manziel was the best player this past season.