Manti Te'o's brilliant season for the No. 3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish has him generating a lot of Heisman Trophy buzz. Unfortunately for Te'o, history says he's a long-shot to actually take home the award.
Defensive players have historically been overlooked for the Heisman, with the big-name offensive guys usually generating most of the hype. Look no further than Ndamukong Suh in 2009 or LaVar Arrington back in 1999, two elite defenders who finished fourth and ninth in the voting. Cornerback Charles Woodson won the award in 1997, but he also made big contributions on special teams. Woodson is still the only player in NCAA history to win the award as primarily a defensive guy.
Arrington is hoping that changes with Te'o (via the Chicago Tribune):
"I would love to see a true defender win the Heisman Trophy before I leave this Earth.
"To a defender in college football, it has a very, very, very big value to us. We look at ourselves as the underdog. That would be a shift of paradigm within NCAA football, if we had true defenders being mainstays. It would be great to see us win."
As it stands, Te'o is likely the No. 2 guy in the race behind Kansas State's Collin Klein. However, if Notre Dame finishes undefeated, that could boost Te'o's chances:
"Normally a defensive player wouldn't be able to match up with a larger field of quality offensive players," said Chris Huston, Heisman analyst for CBSSports.com and founder of HeismanPundit.com. "When you play for a Notre Dame team that is undefeated and taking up a lot of attention, the propensity is for people to look for the person most responsible for that."
Te'o is averaging 10 tackles per game and also has five interceptions on the season. He has succeeded despite plenty of adversity, as he lost both his grandmother and girlfriend in the same week back in September.