Before you start reading, I should probably provide the disclaimer that I grew up as a Florida Gators fan and, therefore, I am a huge Tim Tebow fan. I realize, though, that in today’s sports culture, Tim Tebow has become many fans’ constant punching bag. I also realize that writing about Tim Tebow—along with Manti Te’o—as one of the ultimate representations of what the Heisman trophy stands for is incredibly ironic given the current Tebow insults from an “anonymous” Jets source that are currently making their rounds on SportsCenter and ESPN affiliated shows this week. I just don’t care.
So to move to my main idea, which unapparent from the above paragraph is not simply two pages of Tim Tebow admiration—though that wouldn’t be too hard for me, let’s focus on the, albeit currently fading, Heisman hype focused on Notre Dame’s LB Manti Te’o. Love Notre Dame or hate Notre Dame, cheer or laugh at the prospect of the Irish making it to the National Championship, it’s very hard to deny the class and sportsmanship that Te’o has showcased throughout the course of the season.
Now I recognize that, in the end, the Heisman trophy usually comes down to statistics. And I don’t kid myself, that though his stats were super-human for the first half of the season, in the past few games Te’o’s stats have not been far and beyond that of the average linebacker.
But due to the this emphasis on the athlete side of each player, though definitely important, we lose the human side. Shouldn’t these statisticians take a break from their computers and look at the whole player and not just the stats on the field? Stats are important, but overall impact on a team and a COMMUNITY cannot simply be made into a number, column or category.
In this way, Tim Tebow and Manti Te’o are extremely similar. Both are top-notch athletes—and if all you Tebow haters won’t even concede this point, then consider the fact that in college he was the first sophomore to receive the Heisman trophy, won two national championships, set four NCAA records, seven SEC records, and four University of Florida records . But both are also much more than just athletes. Off the field, they have impacted their communities for the better and shown that football can build a positive bridge between service, faith, and athletics.
Isn’t that what we want in a Heisman? With the recent Heisman debacle concerning Reggie Bush, wouldn’t it be nice to reward a player who shows extraordinary ability on the field and extraordinary character off of it?
Manti’s impact at Notre Dame this year has been unprecedented. He is far and away the most prominent and motivational player in South Bend. He has the ability to boost his teammates’ performances simply by being on the field AND the ability to send the student section into complete delirium with just one tackle. Stories of his goodness and compassion despite battling his own hardship have already become legend on campus and in the college sports world.
So whatever happens with the Heisman trophy and Notre Dame’s season, Irish fans can be proud of at least one thing: the fortune of being able to root for a once in a lifetime player who epitomizes the morals that the University of Notre Dame aims to teach us every day.
When you combine these morals, the overall impact Manti has on the Notre Dame squad AND his outstanding athletic talents, what more could you truly ask for in a Heisman candidate?