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Article posted: 11/29/2012 5:30 AM

Why Notre Dame's Te'o won't get my Heisman vote

By Mike Imrem

Even Ronald Reagan, also known as The Gipper, might repeat one of his famous remarks this week.

"There they go again."

Notre Dame, he would mean.

The Fighting Irish are veering back toward their old ways now that they're back among the nation's premier football teams: Demanding what they don't deserve.

Remember how the Irish used to be ranked higher than they should have been, invited to bowl games they hadn't earned and handed Heisman Trophies on name recognition?

At least today Notre Dame does belong in the national-championship game. But Manti Te'o shouldn't win the Heisman no matter how often Brian Kelly blusters that he should.

Notre Dame's coach said last weekend, "If a guy like Manti Te'o is not going to win the Heisman … just give it to the offensive player every year and cut to the chase … I don't know how Manti Te'o is left out of the conversation."

Te'o isn't left out of the conversation. He's in the middle of it. He's just not at the top of it.

Kelly didn't have a top Heisman candidate at his previous coaching stops so maybe he feels he has to stump for Te'o.

Stop it, coach. Notre Dame isn't Northern Illinois. The media hype the Irish without urging.

Te'o is a great player, one of the best linebackers in the country. But he likely wouldn't be among the Heisman's top candidates if he didn't play at Notre Dame.

If Te'o were elsewhere -- even in another prominent program like Alabama or Texas -- he'd be just another quality player.

Te'o isn't even the best defensive player in America. I'll take South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, sprained foot and all. Heck, one TV analyst suggested Te'o isn't the best defensive player on his own team, though he didn't mention who is.

But Notre Dame's glory and Te'o's story -- dramatically playing through the midseason deaths of his grandmother and girlfriend -- is enough to elevate him to serious Heisman Trophy consideration.

By all accounts Te'o is a terrific team leader, solid campus citizen and tremendous example of what collegiate athletics should be about.

But not the best college football player in America.

This isn't a vote against the concept of a defensive player winning the Heisman Trophy. Three years ago I placed Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh at the top of my ballot.

Suh didn't win, of course, but he had jumped off the field at me. Clowney does now. For all the plays Te'o makes, sorry, he just doesn't.

You know who else does? Who really crashes through the TV screen? Who turns every play into an event?

Johnny Football, that's who.

Whoever gave Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel that nickname should win the Heisman Trophy for accuracy.

First of all, I admit to being a sucker for charismatic nicknames because they have become increasingly rare.

Johnny Dynamic would work, too. Manziel plays like his pants are on fire and the end zone is a firehouse.

But leaning toward Johnny Manziel, who would be the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, has to do with more than just him being Johnny Football.

Manti Te'o is one heck of a linebacker. Manziel is one heck of a quarterback. A premier quarterback trumps a premier linebacker.

So with a few days left to cast a vote, Manziel has my Heisman Trophy vote.

Yeah, Gipper, I know: "There I go again."

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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