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


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.

Final Bears thoughts: Will Akiem Hicks earn his deserved spot in the Pro Bowl?

Final Bears thoughts: Will Akiem Hicks earn his deserved spot in the Pro Bowl?

Akiem Hicks deserved to be a Pro Bowler in 2017, a year in which he led the Bears with 8 1/2 sacks while proving to be one of the best run-stuffing defensive linemen in football. But it wasn’t even that he wasn’t selected to the roster — he was only a fourth alternate, which seemed like a slap in the face to a guy who had a standout season.
The biggest prohibitive factor for Hicks’ Pro Bowl campaign, though, was the Bears’ 5-11 record and general irrelevance in the NFL landscape.
“Yeah, it doesn’t really work out when you don’t have the record to match your performance, right?” Hicks said last year.
The Bears’ record now matches Hicks’ performance. He’s having an outstanding season as part of the league’s best defense: His 30 stops, defined by Pro Football Focus as plays that result in a “loss” for the offense, are the most among defensive linemen this year. He has six sacks and 39 total pressures, pairing good pass rushing productivity with his elite-level run defense.
All that adds up to an impressive Pro Bowl resume. Fan voting — which counts for one-third of determining the roster, with the other thirds coming from player and coach voting — ended on Thursday, with Hicks receiving the second-highest number of votes among NFC defensive linemen. The guy ahead of him is Aaron Donald, and there’s certainly no shame in that.
“It would be an honor,” Hicks said. “It’s something that I’ve aspired to achieve, it’s something that I’ve wanted for a really long time. Is it going to happen and is it a guarantee to happen? No. Have I been shafted before? Yes. Will it hurt the same? It for sure will. But that’s what we got. That’s what we gotta deal with. So I hope everything goes the way that I deserve but we’ll see.”
Hicks, though, would prefer to make the Pro Bowl roster and then not play in the actual game — which would mean the Bears would be preparing for the Super Bowl.
“The objective is to be able to play in the biggest game,” Hicks said. “We’ll see how all that shakes out.”
Packed for Chicago

Earlier this year, Allen Robinson told a Jacksonville TV station that his free agency decision came down to the Bears and the Green Bay Packers. That he chose the Bears — with an unproven coach and unproven quarterback — over Aaron Rodgers and the Packers was a notable leap of faith, but one in which Robinson was always confident.
“For me, since early on in free agency, I had my eyes on Chicago,” Robinson said. “I think that was the big thing for me as far as again, Chicago not only had Mitch Trubisky and coach Nagy, but the city of Chicago. Being close to my hometown (Detroit), being in a city that I was pretty familiar with — and there’s a lot that goes behind Chicago. Chicago is a big sports town, as far as a player, there’s no other place that you would want to play in like this. For me, it was a lot that went into Chicago more than just some of the small variables.”
Not has Robinson’s decision paid off with an all-but-confirmed playoff berth — which would be the first of his career — but he’s taken advantage of his platform in Chicago. Robinson’s Within Reach Foundation on Monday raised more than $112,000, which will allow his foundation to launch “Reach For a Book” reading rooms at Title I elementary schools and Boys & Girls Clubs.
Deflected praise
The Associated Press this week named Nagy the NFL’s best coach in 2018, likely the first of a handful of coach of the year honors the first-year Bears’ coach will receive.
Nagy, though, was quick to credit everyone else around the Bears for his personal achievement.
“That kinda stuff — the individual awards, for everybody, I think to me when you hear something like that, especially as a head coach, it speaks to who we are,” Nagy said. “When you hear an award like that, you get humbled by it, you appreciate it, but it’s all about everybody in this building. It’s about the players. so that’s pretty good for them.”

Zach LaVine's injury provides an opportunity to evaluate Rawle Alkins


Zach LaVine's injury provides an opportunity to evaluate Rawle Alkins

According to sources of Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic, the Bulls have called up Rawle Alkins in the wake of the Zach LaVine injury news. 

However, the 21-year old wing will not play with the Bulls tonight in San Antonio.

Alkins is a 6-foot 5 wing player who plays with tenacity and energy on the defensive end. In 18 NBA G League games Alkins has averaged 15 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists per game. 

The main weakness in Alkins game was his inconsistent perimeter shooting, which has looked good so far with the Windy City Bulls. He is shooting 38 percent on 4.5 attempts from 3-point range per game, though he is struggling mightily from the free throw line. 

It will be interesting to see how Jim Boylen deploys Alkins in lineups—assuming he gets solid playing time in LaVine's absence—because a Alkins-Shaq Harrison-Kris Dunn pairing could provide a very big dose of switchability and defensive pressure for a team that has been quietly been 17th in the league in defensive rating since Boylen took over.