For one, it's rare to see a defensive player make such an impact like Te'o. Only Charles Woodson of the Michigan Wolverines has taken home the Heisman Trophy as a primary defensive player, yet he did have an impact on offense and special teams as well.
Te'o, though, is straight-up defense and a linebacker at that.
Therefore, it will be extensively more difficult for him to win the coveted trophy. Offensive numbers and impact have always stuck out more, with the exception of Woodson, and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel appears to be the best competition.
Manziel finished his freshman campaign with 4,600 total yards and 43 combined touchdowns for the Aggies. Oh yeah, and Manziel did all that in the SEC while upsetting the then-No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa.
A&M finished its regular season at 10-2 overall and has an outside shot for a BCS at-large bid. In short, Manziel's individual and team resume isn't far off from Te'o and the Irish, if at all.
So, let's look at Te'o's impact as well as the difference between him and Manziel where it counts even more: Off the field.
Manziel vs. Te'o: Off the Field
This past June, amid a competition for the starting quarterback spot, Manziel was arrested and put in jail for an incident outside a bar in College Station.
He eventually gave the police a fake ID. The police said he appeared too intoxicated to answer questions, but he managed to apologize and ask for a ride home.
The bad news came in bunches. The day after Te'o turned 21 last January, his grandfather passed away. A few months later, a cousin died at birth.
Then, in September, his grandmother and his girlfriend — who was battling leukemia — died one after the other.
"When you go through a lot, whether it be on the field or in life, you need to step back," he (Manti Te'o) said. "You need to understand what is important."
"Church is where I feel most at peace," he said. "Just trying to keep myself grounded."
Regardless of your perspective on religion, it's obvious that Manti Te'o is extensively more mature than Manziel. Factor in the personal obstacles that Te'o had to overcome in the midst of a perfect season and it's impossible to fathom such difficultly.
Words cannot justifiably describe the toughness that Te'o epitomizes on and off the field. It would be easy for anyone to pack it in and let anything interpersonal affect performance. Instead, Te'o channeled his emotions and stayed true to the course.
In short, he has literally put on a heroic and inspirational performance each week. And he is the definition of the Fighting Irish.
The National Title Factor
An opportunity to play for a national title always plays somewhat of a factor regarding the Heisman Trophy.
Although it was Robert Griffin III who took it home in 2011, two finalists last season were Trent Richardson and Tyrann Mathieu: both squared off in the title game. In 2010, that honor went to Cam Newton of Auburn, who went on to win it all, as did Mark Ingram for Alabama in 2009.
Sam Bradford and Tim Tebow also were finalists in 2008 and went head-to-head in that season's national championship. Bradford won the Heisman, but Tebow won the game.
Aside from Tebow in 2007, other Heisman winners who competed in the BCS title were Ohio State's Troy Smith (2006), USC's Reggie Bush (2005) and Matt Leinart (2004) and Oklahoma's Jason White (2003).
This season, Te'o is the best player on the only remaining eligible perfect team—sorry, Ohio State fans—and the Irish are ranked No. 1 across the board. His emotional and inspirational impact plays a definite role in Notre Dame's success, and the numbers are quite appealing as well.
Manti Te'o By the Numbers
Entering Notre Dame's final contest, Te'o had collected 98 tackles, defended 10 passes with six interceptions and recovered two fumbles.
Simply put, the guy is a playmaker all over the field against the run and pass. Against the Trojans, Te'o just added another interception to his resume, and he's now ranked second in the country with seven.
On the year, Notre Dame's defense has only given up an average of merely 10.3 points per game, which ranks No. 2. In addition, Te'o and the Irish entered Southern California ranked inside the top 10 in total and rushing defense, as well as No. 24 in passing defense.
He's easily the best defensive player on arguably the best defense and the best team. Considering what Te'o represents and what he has overcome to this point, that is what embodies a Heisman Trophy winner.
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