On Saturday night the winner of college football’s most prestigious award, the Heisman Trophy, will be announced for the 78th time.  But despite being an avid football fan I rarely watch the ceremony, because the outcome is virtually pre-determined.

I’ve long been a critic of the Heisman Trophy and the way the winners are selected.   A couple of years ago I called it the biggest joke in football.

Although New York City’s Downtown Athletic Club prides itself in honoring the nation’s most outstanding football player, the problem with the Heisman is that it almost always fails to take into account all of the players on the field, in particular defensive players.

The last defensive player to win the award was cornerback Charles Woodson from the University of Michigan in 1997. But he also had to return punts and occasionally catch passes in order for Heisman Trophy voters to feel he was justified in getting the award.

In fact no pure defensive player has ever won the award.  Notre Dame’s Leon Hart won the award in 1949, but he played both ways as a defensive and offensive end.   The second Heisman winner Larry Kelley in 1936 was another two-way player for Yale.

An even more damning statistic for the Heisman is that almost all of the previous winners have been either running backs or quarterbacks.  Only a couple of receivers have ever won the Heisman Trophy.

This year Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o is to my eyes clearly the most outstanding college football player in the country.

Notre Dame Linebacker Manti Te’o

I know there’s a lot of excitement and hype surrounding redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel, also known by the all-time nickname, Johnny Football, from Texas A&M.    Make no mistake he is without question a great young quarterback who will garner plenty of Heisman votes.   But I just don’t think he is a more important or more outstanding player than Manti Te’o.

The last time a pure defensive player should have won the Heisman was just three years ago. That year Nebraska defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh was far and away the most dominating player in college football, but he too was denied the Heisman, finishing fourth that year, behind the winner, Alabama running back Mark Ingram. The vote was a disgrace.

I will reluctantly watch the ceremony this year, if only because I know that Manti Te’o is one of only three finalists being invited to the ceremony in New York on Saturday.  The other two are Johnny Manziel and Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein, which means that Te’o will obviously finish no worse than third.

But I will forever wonder why is it that the best player on the nation’s number one team is not guaranteed college football’s top prize?  It doesn’t begin to make sense.

Still I will hope that maybe, just maybe, Heisman Trophy voters will for once do the right thing.

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