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Heisman goes to Manziel, but Te'o continues to build legacy

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Heisman goes to Manziel, but Te'o continues to build legacy

Manti Te'o used to make himself a running back playing video games growing up, barreling over defenses with the flick of a joystick or the push of a button. That was supposed to be the only way a linebacker would ever have a chance at winning the Heisman Trophy, in a virtual world in which he could play offense.

Johnny Manziel won the Heisman Trophy Saturday night, so perhaps that path for defensive players still holds true. But Teo made it farther in the process than all but two purely-defensive players in the Heismans 78-year history. Only Pittsburghs Hugh Green and Iowas Alex Karras -- yes, that Alex Karras -- finished as high as Teos second-place finish in 2012.

Never in my life would I have thought that it would become a reality where I would even be mentioned with the name Heisman, Teo said earlier in the year.

Undoubtedly, Teo is disappointed to not win college footballs most prestigious honor. He told reporters before the ceremony he didnt come to New York to finish second, just like he repeated all year that he didnt get this far in Notre Dames season to not win the BCS Championship. But there was no pass to be intercepted or goal-line tackle to be made Saturday. The winner of the Heisman Trophy was decided days ago, and all Teo could do is sit and watch the result unfold.

If a guy like Manti Te'o's not going to win the Heisman, they should just make it an offensive award, coach Brian Kelly said after Notre Dame beat USC, pitching his linebacker as the Irish celebrated a trip to South Florida. Just give it to the offensive player every year and let's just cut to the chase. He is the backbone of a 12-0 football team that has proven itself each and every week. If the Heisman Trophy is what it is, I don't know how Manti Te'o is left out of that conversation.

Te'o was hardly left out of the conversation, though. He finished second with 1,706 points -- only about 300 fewer than Manziel, and the most points by a purely-defensive player ever. The fact he was even in it, with many voters shunning the idea of casting a vote for a defensive player, is an extraordinary feat on its own.

Inside the Irish: Even without Heisman, Te'o's season one for the ages

But Te'o's impact wasnt just about the stats -- 103 tackles, 7 interceptions -- it was about being the emotional leader of the nations No. 1 scoring defense. It was about his play against Michigan State and Michigan while dealing with personal tragedy. It was his impact in the community, his integrity, his status as a legitimate role model.

He lives his life the right way, Kelly said. He goes to class. He takes great care of himself off the field. He's a college student. He can laugh and have fun and be silly. He can be tough.

He's just all that you would want in a young man as a college student and a representative of Notre Dame.

That impact couldnt be measured. Manziels 4,600 yards of total offense and 43 touchdowns while playing in the nations best conference, though, was an easy talking point. Theres little debating those numbers -- and make no mistake, Manziel is a deserving player to become the first redshirt freshman to win the Heisman Trophy.

Related: Te'o makes history with sixth award

But just because Manziel deserved the Heisman didnt mean Te'o wasnt deserving, either.

I tell people, they think it's all about stats, Notre Dame defensive tackle Louis Nix explained Friday. Me, I actually went on the Heisman website and read the mission statement. And it basically has Manti's picture next to it.

People want to talk about stats, all these other players up for the Heisman, they're great players. But Manti, on and off the field, he's that guy. He has integrity, he's athletic, he's one of the best guys you'll ever meet. I don't take that away from any other player, but I think Manti is the Heisman. I think he should win it.

For Te'o, though, the grand prize is still out there, well within his reach. He wanted to win the Heisman Trophy, but hed rather win the BCS Championship.

I rather be holding a crystal ball than a bronze statue, Teo said earlier in the year. That's just me.

Few expected Notre Dame to participate in the National Championship when fall camp opened in August -- not even their athletic director, Jack Swarbrick, who thought Notre Dames year was going to be 2013. Even fewer (try anyone) thought of Teo as a Heisman Trophy candidate.

But Te'o still had a legacy to secure entering his senior season, one that didnt involve a trip to New York for the Heisman ceremony. Notre Dame hadnt been elite on a national stage in nearly two decades, and hadnt won a title since 1988. This years team brought the Irish back with defense, and with Teo as its backbone.

He is the perfect guy to lead the resurrection of this program, Swarbrick said in November.

Thats Te'o's legacy, and one that still has one more chapter to be written next month. The Heisman Trophy wasnt crucial to it. A National Championship, though, would vault Teos legacy to rarified air among Notre Dames elite.

When you're a champion at other schools, you're a champion, Te'o explained, but when you're a champion at Notre Dame, you become a legend.

Patrick Kane hits milestone, but Blackhawks get blown out by Islanders

Patrick Kane hits milestone, but Blackhawks get blown out by Islanders

Probably not the way the Blackhawks wanted to start their second half of the season.

After a five-day break, the Blackhawks suffered a brutal 7-3 loss to the New York Islanders on Saturday night at the United Center. This coming after a 4-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on home ice last Sunday.

"It was a game we had to win," Quenneville said after Saturday's loss. "Disappointing in a lot of ways."

The Blackhawks needed both goaltenders to get through 60 minutes. Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass combined for 39 saves on 46 shots.

On the offensive side of things, Patrick Kane hit a milestone.

The 29-year-old had two goals and an assist and recorded his 800th career point, becoming the fifth player in franchise history to reach 800 points.

The Blackhawks are now 22-18-6 on the season with 50 points and rank last in the Central Division, five points behind the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild.

The Blackhawks' schedule doesn't get any easier when the Tampa Bay Lightning — the league-leader in points — come to town on Monday.

See what Quenneville and Kane had to say about Saturday's loss in the video above.

One MLB executive thinks Kyle Schwarber can emerge as Cubs' best hitter in 2018

One MLB executive thinks Kyle Schwarber can emerge as Cubs' best hitter in 2018

When the 2017 season ended, Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber looked in the mirror and didn't like what he saw.

He was stocky, slower than he wanted to be and he had just finished a very difficult season that saw him spend time back in the minor leagues at Triple-A after he struggled mightily through the first three months of the season.

Schwarber still put up solid power numbers despite his overall struggles. He slammed 30 home runs, putting him among the Top 15 hitters in the National League and among the Top 35 in all of baseball. But, Schwarber was honest with himself. He knew he could achieve so much more if he was in better shape and improved his mobility, his overall approach at the plate and his defense.

Schwarber was drafted by the Cubs out of Indiana University as a catcher. However, many scouts around baseball had serious doubts about his ability to catch at the big league level. The Cubs were in love with Schwarber the person and Schwarber the overall hitter and felt they would give him a chance to prove he could catch for them. If he couldn't, then they believed he could play left field adequately enough to keep his powerful bat in the lineup.

However, a serious knee injury early in the 2016 season knocked Schwarber out of action for six months and his return to the Cubs in time to assist in their World Series run raised expectations for a tremendous 2017 season. In fact, the expectations for Schwarber were wildly unrealistic when the team broke camp last spring. Manager Joe Maddon had Schwarber in the everyday lineup batting leadoff and playing left field.

But Schwarber's offseason after the World Series consisted of more rehab on his still-healing injured left knee. That kept him from working on his outfield play, his approach at the plate and his overall baseball training. 

Add in all of the opportunities and commitments that come with winning a World Series and it doesn't take much detective work to understand why Schwarber struggled so much when the 2017 season began. This offseason, though, has been radically different. A season-ending meeting with Cubs president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer led to a decision to take weight off of Schwarber's frame. It also included a decision to change his training program so that he improved his quickness, lateral movement and his overall baseball skills.

"I took two weeks off after the season ended and then I went to work," Schwarber said. "We put a plan together to take weight off and to improve my quickness. I have my meals delivered and I feel great. My baseball work combined with a lot of strength and conditioning has me in the best shape that I have ever been in."

Schwarber disagrees with the pundits who felt manager Maddon's decision to put him in the leadoff spot in the Cubs' loaded lineup contributed to his struggles.

"I have no problem hitting wherever Joe wants to put me," Schwarber said. "I didn't feel any more pressure because I was batting leadoff. I just needed to get back to training for a baseball season as opposed to rehabbing from my knee injury. I'm probably 20-25 pounds lighter and I'm ready to get back to Arizona with the boys and to get ready for the season."

Many around the game were shocked when the Cubs drafted Schwarber with the No. 4 overall selection in the 2014 MLB Draft, but a rival executive who was not surprised by the pick believes that Schwarber can indeed return to the form that made him such a feared hitter during his rookie season as well as his excellent postseason resume.

"Everyone who doubted this kid may end up way off on their evaluation because he is a great hitter and now that he is almost two years removed from his knee injury," the executive said. "He knows what playing at the major-league level is all about I expect him to be a real force in the Cubs lineup.

"Theo and Jed do not want to trade this kid and they are going to give him every opportunity to succeed. I think he has a chance to be as good a hitter as they have in their order."

Watch the full 1-on-1 interview with Kyle Schwarber Sunday night on NBC Sports Chicago.