Manti Te'o: A Place Among Notre Dame All-Time Award Winners?

John PaliferroContributor IDecember 11, 2012

Manti Te'o: A Place Among Notre Dame All-Time Award Winners?

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    Notre Dame University, recipients of 11 National Championships, 7 Heisman Winners, 185 1st Team All-Americans, and on and on. You've heard the rhetoric and whether you're a fan of the Irish or wish them nothing but failure, you can't deny their resume.

    With the award season over, it's time to take a look back. Manti Te'o may have had one of the most miraculous years a player can have, even if he did finish right behind the best nickname in college football.

    From Angelo Bertelli to Johnny Lujack to the Rocket, we take a look back at the past Irish award winners and see where the Hawaii native stacks up.

No. 13: Ken MacAfee

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    Award:  Walter Camp Award, 1977

    Ken MacAfee was a 3 time All-American, an Academic All-American and finished 3rd in the Heisman voting during his time with the Irish.

    Known for the punishing style of play that comes with being a Tight End, MacAfee brought a certain grace to the position, hauling in 54 passes for 797 yards and 6 touchdowns during the 1977 season, and ranking 3rd all time in career receiving. 

    It didn't hurt that he had the likes of Joe Montana under center and an entire championship team around him, but you don't build quality teams without award winning players like MacAfee.

No. 12: Raghib Ismail

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    Award: Walter Camp Award, 1990

    Raghib Ismail may be one of the most electrifying players to pass through the hallowed tunnels of Notre Dame University.

    Nicknamed 'The Rocket' for his blazing speed, Ismail was integral to the Irish winning their latest National Championship in '88 and almost again in 1990 with a 91yd punt return against the University of Colorado that was called back thanks to a clipping call.

    During the 1990 season, he rushed for 537 yards, 3 TDs, caught 32 receptions for 699 yards and 2 TDs, 14 kickoff returns for 336 yards with 1 TD, and 13 punts for 151 yards.

    He was the jack of all trades for the Irish and number 12 on our list. 

No. 11: Jim Lynch

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    Award: Maxwell Award, 1966

    A defensive captain and natural leader, Jim Lynch was instrumental to the Irish's defense and their success leading the Fighting Irish with 106 tackles. The previous season he finished with 108.

    While he may not have the impressive stats as other players, it was his importance to the team as a whole, the intangibles if you will, that puts Lynch on our list, leading the Irish to their first National Championship in 17 years.

No. 10: Ross Browner

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    Award: Outland Trophy, 1976, Lombardi Award 1977, Maxwell Award 1977

    One of the most decorated defensive players in college football, Ross Browner was part of two Irish championship teams, '73 and '77, starting all four years.

    During his career, Browner racked up a school record 340 tackles, 10 deflected passes, 2 blocked kicks, and also notched a touchdown and 2 safeties, making him the only lineman in the 70s to win the Maxwell.

    A ferocious outside end, Ross Browner made his presence known to all offenses that faced him.

No. 9: Brady Quinn

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    Award: Sammy Baugh Trophy, 2005, AT&T ESPN All-America Player, 2006, Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, 2006, Maxwell Award, 2006.

    What more can be said about the 'Golden Boy' of Notre Dame? Thrown into the spotlight as a freshman, Brady Quinn, starting all four years, broke 36 Irish school records.

    He excelled under Charlie Weis' pro style offense leading the Irish to 29 career wins, tied for most in school history. 

    While his 2006 season stats were impressive: 3,426 yes, 37 TDs, with only 7 INTs, Quinn failed to deliver a highly rated Irish team to a BCS championship, let alone a BCS bowl win.

No. 8: John Huarte

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    Award: Heisman, 1964

    Unlike a lot of the Irish award winners, John Huarte didn't see any significant playing time until his senior year when he was named the Irish's starting signal caller.

    Huarte made the most of his time, winning all but one game during the '64 season, and throwing for 2,062 yards on only 205 attempts, a 10+ yards per attempt average.

    He wasn't the first nor the last Irish player to win the Heisman, but he's the first on our list.

No. 7: Angelo Bertelli

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    Award: Heisman, 1943

    Angelo Bertelli came into the University of Notre Dame a highly recruited running back, but when Frank Leahy took over the Irish, he was moved under center.

    Bertelli soared at the position, losing only 3 games during his Notre Dame career. 

    His senior season was cut short six games as Bertelli was called up to active duty with the Marine Corps, but even with just six games, it was enough to win him the Heisman.

No. 6: Johnny Lujack

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    Award: Heisman, 1947

    Much like Angelo Bertelli, Johnny Lujack's college career was interrupted by the war, but that didn't slow down the Irish signal caller. 

    During his senior year, Johnny Lujack led the Irish to a perfect 9-0 record, completing 61 passes for 777 yards, and rushing for 139 yards.

    A two time All-American, he led Notre Dame to three National Championships, which is an impressive feat on its own, but even more so given his involvement with WWII.

No. 5: Paul Hornung

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    Award: Heisman, 1956

    A highly versatile quarterback who could run, pass, block, and tackle, Paul Hornung played fullback, tailback, safety, and kick returner during his time at the University of Notre Dame.

    Nicknamed 'The Golden Boy', many consider him to be the greatest all-around player in Notre Dame football history. 

    During his senior season, Hornung led the Irish in passing, rushing, scoring, returns (kick and punt), passes broken up, and second in tackles and passes broken up.

    A truly gifted player, he is the only Heisman winner in history to come from a losing team. (Notre Dame was 2-8 that year).

No 4: Leon Hart

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    Award: Maxwell Award, 1949, Heisman, 1949

    Both a tight end and defensive end, Leon Hart was one of only two linemen to ever win the Heisman (the other was Larry Kelley of Yale University in '36).

    Known for his outstanding blocking and catching skills and his great pass rush on defense, Hart was truly a force to be reckoned with, never losing a game with the Irish, going 36-0-2, and notching 3 National Championships along the way.

    Leon Hart was the only player to win the Heisman, a national championship, and the first overall pick in draft until Cam Newton in 2011.

No. 3: Johnny Lattner

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    Award: Maxwell Award, 1952, 1953, Heisman, 1953

    Johnny Lattner was a jack of all trades. A consensus All-American in both his junior and senior years, Lattner played both ways, and set a school record for all purpose yards that remained unbroken until Vagas Ferguson broke it in 1979.

    He claimed the Heisman Trophy during his senior year in the second-closest Heisman balloting in history, despite the fact he didn't lead the Irish in rushing, passing, receiving or scoring, edging out the University of Minnesota's Paul Giel. 

No 2: Tim Brown

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    Award: Walter Camp Award 1987, Heisman 1987

    Earning the nickname "Touchdown Timmy" , Tim Brown seemed to live in the end zone.

    During his senior season, he caught 34 passes for 846 yards, returned 34 punts for 401 yards, 23 kickoff returns for 456 yards, rushed for 144 yards, scoring 8 touchdowns along the way.

    Brown finished his career at Notre Dame with 137 receptions for 2,493 yards, a school record 5,024 all-purpose yards, and 22 touchdowns, and becoming the first wide receiver to ever win the Heisman Trophy.

No. 1: Manti Te'o

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    Award: LOTT Impact Trophy, 2012, Nagurski Award, 2012, Lombardi Trophy, 2012, Chuck Bednarik Award, 2012, Dick Butkis Award, 2012, Walter Camp Award, 2012, Maxwell Award, 2012

    What else can be said about Manti Te'o? He gives up millions to come back for what might be arguably the best senior season a player can ask for.

    Sure he finished 2nd to Johnny Manziel in the Heisman, but he is the face of an Irish team that has resurged to national prominence for the first time in 20 plus years.

    It may seem like an obvious choice to put him at No. 1, but Manti finished with the highest vote total in the Heisman for a purely defensive player, where one can argue it's really just an offensive award. He now has the most awards won by a player with 7, which puts him at the the top Irish award winner of all time.

    Now that's some good company to be in.