Te Amo, Te’o: Welcome to the Defensive World, Football

Defence wins championships. You’ve heard it so often, it’s no longer trendy or cool. True, though. Definitely true. But, there are always a few trying to buck the trend. The Phoenix Suns from 2005 to 2010. The Los Angeles Lakers, like, every damn year. The Green Bay Packers’ aerial attack. New Orleans can’t even defend their levees from rising waters (sorry). Everyone wants to get offensive.

There’s only one problem: it still wins championships.

J.J. Watt is the face of the Houston Texans, despite how many yards Arian Foster racks up every season. The luscious locks of Clay Matthews and Troy Polamalu get more attention than every Big Ben shoulder or Aaron Rodgers Hail Mary. And, there’s Manti Te’o.

Despite having the coolest name this side of a Quentin Tarantino film, Te’o owns three individual pieces of college football’s most prized hardware. Soon, he’ll have a shot at the Heisman, which is ironic because he has almost no ability to hold the ball and therefore no ability to do the pose the Heisman guy does.

Then, his Notre Dame Fighting Irish will head to Miami Gardens to take the BCS Championship away from the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Te’o is a linebacker, and his candidacy for college football’s top prize is as surprising to the average fan as Crash was when it won Best Picture in 2006. Matt Barkley, Geno Smith, or De’Anthony Thomas. They were the guys.

But, no. After winning the Maxwell Award, the Bednarik Award, and the Walter Camp Award on Thursday, Te’o’s well on his way to the fourth and biggest grab of them all.

“I’m at a loss for words,” he said of winning the Maxwell, which is awarded to the NCAA’s best overall player. “The last time I ever dreamt of winning the award was on a video game. So, to win it is a mind-blowing experience.”



Of course, the parade could also end as quickly as it started. Individual awards rarely translate to team success. Right now, Notre Dame is the nation’s only noteworthy undefeated team (sorry, Ohio State), but Alabama is a buzz saw unlike anything they’ve faced in 2012. And, the Heisman is far from a sure thing.

“On a day when several players were vying to be declared the best at their position, Te’o trumped them all,” wrote Yahoo!‘s Dr. Saturday. “But, Te’o’s good fortune Thursday might not translate into a Heisman Trophy win.

“Since 2000, only twice has the winner of the Maxwell also won the Heisman Trophy — Tim Tebow in 2007 and Cam Newton in 2010. Conversely, since 2010, quarterbacks who have won the Davey O’Brien Award, which is given to the nation’s best quarterback, have gone on to win the Heisman eight times, including five of the last six years.”

Either way, it’s clear that Te’o’s ascendancy signals — or, is a symptom of — the rise of the defensive system, the defensive player, and (again) Hawaiian stuff.

Be it Big Kahuna Burger (which was always cool) or another Head & Shoulders commercial, the defence means what it used to. It’s supposed to be had with beers and barbecue, and you’re supposed to see fences in the stands and the Walls of Troy behind your own 49 yard line.

It seems we’re back in the mid-90’s. Then, Deion Sanders was the man in the NFL (video below and you can buy his 1999 book Power, Money & Sex here), and Desmond Howard was winning the Heisman. And, he actually did the pose. But, the Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers were launching the ball like nobody else.

It’s an inverse relationship. The more you throw, the greater a defence you need. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Manti Te’o’s riding the wave, and good for him. Because he is the wave.