Doug Robinson: Why Manti Te'o should win the Heisman — but won't

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 13 2012 3:44 p.m. MST

Last time we checked, tackling, shedding blocks and covering the field are part of the game, too, and no one does it better than Te'o. He is arguably the best football player in the country and certainly the best player on unbeaten, No. 3-ranked Notre Dame, which boasts a defense that allows an average of only 11 points per game.

In 10 games, Te'o, a senior from Hawaii, has collected 46 solo tackles, 46 assisted tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 6 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery and 10 pass deflections. He is a game-changer. He made a leaping interception with four minutes left to secure a 13-6 win over Michigan — his second pick of the day — to go with 8 tackles. In a 17-14 win over BYU, he had 10 tackles and an interception. In a 30-13 win over Oklahoma, he had 11 tackles, two tackles for losses, one sack and a game-clinching interception.

"The guy is all over the field, pass coverage, breaking on the ball, setting our defense off," says Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly.

In recent polls Te'o trails Kansas State's Collin Klein and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel in the Heisman race. Klein and Manziel are — surprise — quarterbacks. Quarterbacks have won 10 of the last 12 Heismans.

But Te'o is becoming a national sensation and recently landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated. All of which must be bittersweet for BYU. Te'o is a devout Mormon whose cousin once played for the Cougars. BYU was one of his five official recruiting visits. He eventually narrowed his choices to USC and Notre Dame.

At least BYU officials can be happy that Te'o has represented his church well at the famed Catholic school and engendered much goodwill along the way. He is a popular player who has won over fans with his play on the field and his behavior off the field. After Te'o's girlfriend and mother died within days of each other, thousands of leis were passed out to fans at the Michigan game in his honor. After the game, the crowd serenaded Te'o.

"He's a great player," says Reynolds, who high-fived Te'o in the tunnel before their teams met each other in South Bend. "And I like the kid besides. I was in his home recruiting him. The guy is a stud and a great kid. I'd want him to win the Heisman because I know him and because he's one of our guys and because of the way he conducts himself."

Email: drob@desnews.com

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