"I can only imagine how I would feel if I win the Heisman," he said.
Charles Woodson of Michigan in 1997 is the closest thing to a true defensive player winning the Heisman. Woodson was a dominant cornerback, but he also returned punts and played a little receiver. That helped burnish his Heisman credentials.
Te'o is all linebacker. He leads the top-ranked Fighting Irish with 103 tackles and seven interceptions.
Klein was the front-runner for the Heisman for a good chunk of the season, but he played his worst game late in the season — in a loss at Baylor — and the momentum Manziel gained by leading Texas A&M to victory at Alabama has been tough to stop.
Manziel's numbers are hard to deny. He set a Southeastern Conference record with 4,600 total yards, throwing for more than 3,000 and rushing for more than 1,000.
Klein, by comparison, averages about 100 fewer total yards per game (383-281) than Manziel.
A freshman has never won the Heisman. Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson came closest in 2004, finishing second by Southern California's Matt Leinart.
Manziel is a redshirt freshman, meaning he attended Texas A&M and practiced with the team but did not play last year. Still, he'd be the most inexperienced college player to win the sport's most prestigious award.
"It's surreal for me to sit here and think about that this early in my career," he said. "With what me and my teammates have gone through, with how they've played and how they've helped me to get to this point, it's just a testament to how good they are and how good they've been this year.
"Without them I wouldn't be here and that's the real story to all this."