Notre Dame Football: Manti Te'o Heisman Moments from First Half of 2012

Ian Berg@@ShugJordanPkwyCorrespondent IOctober 17, 2012

Notre Dame Football: Manti Te'o Heisman Moments from First Half of 2012

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    Manti Te’o has been launched into the heart of the Heisman Trophy discussion on the heels of the best defensive performance at Notre Dame in a decade or better. Te’o has built a strong argument with a number of Heisman moments coming in just the first half of the season.

    There has only been one defensive player who's won the Heisman Trophy. Manti Te'o could be the second. Charles Woodson of Michigan won the award in 1997 as a cornerback, but Woodson had an edge—he could return kicks. Te'o won't need the special teams help as well as he is playing this year. 

    Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was also a part of the Heisman discussion when he was in his final year at Nebraska, but he couldn’t pull the win.

    If Te’o wants this discussion to continue, he has to make more of these plays in the second half of the year. 

Stopping Stepfan Taylor

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    There were a number of big plays made in the Stanford game by Notre Dame defenders, but Manti Te’o was involved in the final two plays of the game. Both may have been the key to leading this Irish team to the land of the undefeated.

    On third and fourth downs, Stepfan Taylor attempted to score the touchdown through the Notre Dame defense. It's clear to see that on the third down play, Te’o is stopping Taylor dead in the air, saving a touchdown.

    Te’o finished the Stanford game with 11 total tackles, three of which were solo. His biggest impact came at the end of the game, making the stop that shook the college football world for a weekend. 

Te’o Lands Two Picks, 8 Tackles against Michigan

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    Michigan traveled to Notre Dame and walked away with a heartbreaking 13-6 loss. It was a defensive showdown with the Manti Te’o-led Irish coming out on top.

    Te’o added a new look to his game with two interceptions coming against Michigan. Denard Robinson was struggling to get anything to work in the offense, and Te’o did him no favors.

    By the end of the game, Te’o had eight total tackles and two interceptions. 

Inspiring Play after Tragic Loss

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    Manti Te’o is originally from Laie, Hawaii. South Bend is 4,926 miles away.

    Earlier this season Te’o received the news that his grandmother and girlfriend had passed away back in his home state. Te’o made arrangements and made it home to see his family and mourn the loss.

    That same week Te’o had his best game of the season, finishing with 12 total tackles, seven of which were solo.

    When the search begins for a Heisman winner, character, courage and leadership are all qualities that are looked for. Te’o has those qualities. Don’t be surprised if the Michigan State game is mentioned when he travels to New York this December.  

Manti Te'o Doing Work on Opposing Offenses

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    Thanks to Youtube user DomerNation1, there are highlights compiled of Te'o's first three games. 

    If there was any doubt that this guy was a Heisman candidate, it has disappeared with his great performances so far this fall. Just the first three weeks filled a video. 


Respected Senior Leader

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    Brian Kelly is a tough leader for the Notre Dame Football team. When Notre Dame Productions stopped to ask him about his returning senior leader at linebacker, Kelly had nothing but great things to say. 

    Kelly mentions what a huge step forward it was to have Te’o come back for his senior season. He talks about how the star linebacker is a leader in every facet of the game, on and off the field. 

    Kelly has a glowing review of his All-American’s ability to lead the defense. There isn’t one point in the interview that Kelly doesn’t have great things to say about Manti Te’o.

    When the Heisman Trust is looking to pick a winner, they look for outstanding qualities in all phases of life. This is from the Heisman Trust Mission Statement:

    The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work. The Heisman Trophy Trust ensures the continuation and integrity of this award.

    Te’o fits the framework of the player the Heisman Trust is looking for. If he continues to own offenses on the field, he should be making the trip to New York. 

Irreplaceable Leader

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    Te’o has four games with 10 or more total tackles and three interceptions on the season. He has been a major piece of the defensive success this year. 

    Notre Dame is fielding the No. 2 scoring, No. 5 pass efficiency and No. 11 total defense in the country. Manti Te’o has been the leader of this squad, and is as impacting as any player to their team right now in the country. 

    Without this season’s defensive performance, the Irish are not undefeated. Notre Dame has Te’o to thank for the leadership and success that has come with this unit so far in 2012.