The CFN 2012 Heisman Endorsement
Posted Dec 7, 2012

The CFN endorsement for the 2012 Heisman Trophy ... It might not have been the best race, but one player stood out.

2012 CFN Heisman Endorsement

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CFN Past Heisman Endorsements

2011 RB Montee Ball, Wisconsin
2010 QB Cam Newton, Auburn
2009 DT Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska
2008 QB Tim Tebow, Florida
2007 QB Tim Tebow, Florida
2006 QB Troy Smith, Ohio State
2005 RB Reggie Bush, USC
2004 RB Matt Leinart, USC
2003 WR Larry Fitzgerald, Pitt
2002 RB Willis McGahee, Miami
2001 OT Bryant McKinnie, Miami
2000 QB Chris Weinke, Florida State
1999 RB Ron Dayne, Wisconsin

What If The Heisman Voting Was Done After The Bowls? 
- 2000 to 2011 | 1990 to 1999
- 1980 to 1989 | 1970 to 1979

Ranking the All-Time Winners

- The 25 Greatest Heisman Winners
- No. 26 to 50 | No. 51 to 76
The Heisman Trophy is about more than just being the best college football player – that's what the NFL draft is for.

It's about more than just being the most valuable player, and it's even about more than its own criteria of being the most outstanding player. The Heisman Trophy should go to the signature player, and it should go to the guy who best represents what the season is all about.

It might be nothing more than a beauty and popularity contest among the flashiest players on the top teams, but it's also remembered just as much, if not more, than who wins the national championship. It's also a representation of who has defined a given season.

Yes, the rhetoric dial has been set to ultra-pretentious for a reason … I'm stalling.

No one is doing backflips over the 2012 Heisman race.

There isn't an obvious, slam-dunk pick like Cam Newton in 2010. There isn't a high-level debate between voting for Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III last year, or whether or not Ndamukong Suh should win it as a true defensive player over Mark Ingram in 2009.

Johnny Manziel, Manti Te'o and Collin Klein aren't exactly dividing a nation like Charles Woodson vs. Peyton Manning did in 1997.

Is Manziel the best statistical player in a BCS league this year? No. Baylor's Nick Florence leads the nation in total offense and Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey leads the way in rushing yards per game. It's also not about one big game, either, even though Johnny Football might become Johnny Heisman because of what he did against Alabama. Florence was able to beat a No. 1 team – Kansas State - and Carey rolled for 366 yards and five touchdowns against Arizona.

In terms of a transcendent game, a case could be made that Georgia's Jarvis Jones came up with a far more important performance than Manziel's performance against the Tide. Even after the loss, Alabama is still playing for the national title, while Jones ruined the Gators' season by keeping them from the SEC East title, the SEC championship and the BCS title chase by himself with 12.5 tackles, three sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. Yeah, Te'o was great at picking off passes and making big plays, but Jones forced more turnovers with a pick and seven forced fumbles to go along with his 12.5 sacks.

A case could also be made for Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller over Collin Klein as a finalist, considering the numbers aren't that drastically far apart. Klein threw for a few more yards and ran for more touchdowns, but Miller ran for more yards and he didn't lose to Baylor when everything was on the line. Of course, CK didn't play defense against the Bears, but he didn't help the cause with his lowest rushing output of the season and three interceptions. Meanwhile, Miller took the Buckeyes to 12-0 with no BCS championship carrot at the end of the stick.

But big statistical seasons from quarterbacks have become the new norm. West Virginia's Geno Smith completed over 71% of his passes and threw for 40 touchdowns and just six picks. NIU's Jordan Lynch leads the nation in total rushing yards with 1,771 with 19 touchdowns.

Seven quarterbacks have accounted for over 4,000 yards and several more will blow past that after the bowls. Compare that to 2004 when just three quarterbacks – Texas Tech's Sonny Cumbie, Bowling Green's Omar Jacobs and Hawaii's Timmy Chang – got past 4K, and that's only because they played in high-octane passing offenses. The game has changed with quarterbacks occasionally getting past 5,000 – like Houston's Case Keenum, Texas Tech's Graham Harrell and Tulsa's Paul Smith – without getting a sniff of the Heisman.

But enough about what the 2012 Heisman race wasn't.

Klein really was a phenomenal leader on a team that's not exactly chocked full of four-and-five star talent. Even with entire defensive gameplans focusing on stopping him, he still came through time and again in a 22-rushing touchdown season with a Big 12 title and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl.

Manziel was phenomenal as a redshirt freshman, setting the SEC record for total yards as he came up with highlight reel run after run. If he wins the Heisman, it's not because of what he did in the game against Alabama, it'll be because of what he did in the first quarter against Alabama, going on the road and coming out roaring against a team that was looking to prove a point after the close call against LSU. He ran for more yards than Klein and threw for more than Matt Barkley.

But again, another year, another big season from a quarterback.

Manti Te'o's great season went beyond mere statistics.

It might be easy to quantify what he meant to the team with his seven picks, tying for the second-most in the nation overall and by far the most by any linebacker. It might be simple to point to the big hits in big moments, including a few shots on some key goal line stands. But Te'o was more than that this year - he was The Guy.

On a team that relied on its toughness on both sides of the ball, and as the star of the No. 1 scoring defense and No. 4 run D in America, Te'o was the leader of a team that gutted its way to the top spot in the BCS rankings with a shot to win it all. He defined the defense, and along the way he embodied what this whole thing is supposed to be about.

To be fair, it's hard to find a higher-character college football player than Klein, and Manziel, despite some issues, has been a trip with his legitimate, "this is really, really cool" attitude about the entire season and the Heisman process. But in the end, it's Te'o who rose up through personal tragedy and adversity, improved his game over his first three seasons, and became the signature player on the signature team of the 2012 college football regular season.

The CFN endorsement for the 2012 Heisman Trophy goes to Notre Dame senior linebacker Manti Te'o.