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Heisman Trophy 2012: Notre Dame Manti Te'o is a long shot

The Fighting Irish linebacker will be just third pure defensive player to finish in the top 3 since 1980

Jonathan Daniel

Manti Te'o was a dark horse for the Heisman Trophy coming into this season. And despite being a finalist for the annual award and a member of the nation's No.1-ranked team, the Hawaiian is seen as a long shot to win, according to CSN Chicago's JJ Stankevitz.

With season highlights including a key interception to seal a win over Oklahoma and leading the defensive unit of a potential BCS champion, Te'o is worthy of his nomination. But when he sits down at the Best Buy Theater in Times Square on Saturday, few expect his name to be called.

It has been rough going for defensive players and the Heisman Trophy, with Charles Woodson in 1997 the last of his ilk to do so. Ndamukong Suh finished fourth two years ago after being arguably the most dominant player in college football. And Woodson's campaign was different, having been an electric return man on special teams and seeing action at wide receiver.

But with 103 tackles and seven picks on the year, few can doubt the deserving nature of Manti Te'o. He won't win the Heisman, but the winning first national championship for Notre Dame since 1988 would be a nice consolation prize.