Te’o Heisman Hopes Are Just That

According to Heismanpundit.com, which has been uncannily accurate in its prediction of Heisman trophy winners, the contest is over and the clear-cut winner will be Texas A&M freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel, and by no small margin.

That will no doubt be disappointing to many football fans in Hawaii who have watched the career of former Punahou and current Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o. Te’o will likely finish second in the voting – no small achievement for an exclusively defensive player, but the deck is stacked in favor of skill players on the offensive side of the ball, particularly quarterbacks and running backs.

Despite another outstanding season in which Te’o made big play after big play, and recorded seven interceptions, Te’o does not return kicks, nor was he used as a running back in goal line situations, which he easily could have done. Had Notre Dame been inclined to use him that way, it might have put the North Shore native over the top.

For the Aggies quarterback, the perfect storm developed. Other top offensive stars floundered, so when Manziel had his “Heisman moment” with his brilliant performance in an upset of Alabama, he was thrust onto center stage. His nickname Johnny Football is one of the great ones. He also benefited by first-year Aggie head coach Kevin Sumlin’s policy of prohibiting freshmen from talking to media, thereby building a mystique around Johnny Football. His small-town Texan roots have nearly built him into a mythic figure. When he was finally allowed to be interviewed, one can only surmise that he was very well coached up. He projected all of the “aw, shucks” humility you could want, but none of that would matter if he wasn’t also a terrifically gifted football player. So he’ll become the first freshman to win the award, and Manti Te’o will acquit himself beautifully in front of the New York media and also walk off with a ton of the defensive awards. And Te’o will have a chance to win the one award that he cares most about, and that’s the national championship trophy.

Years from now, Manti Te’o will be remembered as the player who symbolized Notre Dame’s return to national prominence after having been exiled into irrelevance. A man whose leadership finally woke up the echoes.

* With the UH football season now in the books, the focus turns to recruiting. Gathering commitments from talented student-athletes is the lifeblood of every program. Last weeks verbal commit by Waianae defensive tackle Kennedy Tulimasealii was a big step in the right direction. UH will need to recruit extremely well if Norm Chow’s future seasons are going to make people forget about his first.

Give Chow and his staff credit for understanding this and having made 11 offers to local players for next year. The first week in February will be the first indicator of how well the relentless recruiting effort is paying off.