Notre Dame linebacker focuses on team, not personal accolades
TribLIVE Sports Videos
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Manti Te'o will play at Notre Dame Stadium for the final time Saturday, giving Fighting Irish fans the chance to celebrate one of the best linebackers in the history of the storied program and thank him for leading the team to one of its best seasons in decades.
Expect it to be a memorable moment, but certainly not the end of Te'o's tale at Notre Dame. Not the last time he'll make a big play for the Irish, thump his chest and point to the sky.
“When those books are written, they're written about championships. They're written about the great days at Notre Dame. Certainly this has been a great year, but there is more to accomplish,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said. “I think he would be the first one to tell you that this story is not over with. There are some more chapters to be written.”
Notre Dame fans are hoping those chapters include an undefeated season, the school's first national championship since 1988 and Te'o getting a trip to New York with an outside shot to win the Heisman Trophy — which would be a first for the Irish since receiver Tim Brown in 1987.
Te'o said Wednesday he's focused on winning a national championship, not personal accolades.
“I'd rather be holding a crystal ball than a bronze statue,” he said.
The game against Wake Forest (5-5) on Saturday is the primary reason Te'o returned for his senior season instead of leaving for the NFL after last season. He saw how important senior day was to his teammates and then saw how important it was to their parents when videotape of the day was shown at the team banquet.
“That's something that money can't buy. Money can't buy that experience,” Te'o said. “I've realized that. Like I said before, I'm really excited. I'm very grateful that I'll be able to experience that with my family.”
The Hawaiian standout said he expects his parents, Ottilia and Brian Te'o, his siblings and more than 30 other family members to attend the game and to celebrate his career. He likely will finish third on Notre Dame's all-time tackles list and he already holds the record for interceptions in a season by a linebacker with six, but it's his intangibles he will be remembered most for. Kelly said he's never had a leader such as Te'o.
“His relationship with me and the defensive coordinator and how that helps others lay it on the line and say, ‘Hey, whatever our coaches ask us to do.' There's just so many things,” Kelly said. “He's a leader. He really has galvanized this football team by the way he has performed.”
Kelly said others try to emulate Te'o, and that makes them better.
“There is a mirroring effect and a trickle-down effect to the other players in the program that go, ‘I want to be like that guy,'” Kelly said. “That's something you don't get very often.”
It took a while, but Te'o eventually understood that he needed to push his teammates if the Irish were going to get better.
“We call it peer accountability, to hold others to the same level that you are,” Kelly said. “Once he started to take to that kind of philosophy, you could see everyone else around him raise their level of play.”
It's been a bittersweet season for Te'o, who has been outstanding on the field but dealt with tragedy off it. His maternal grandmother, Annette Santiago, died in Hawaii after a long illness Sept. 11 and his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, died in California of leukemia several hours later.
“Somebody told me once that the hardest thing about goodbye is that when you wake up in the morning, you have to say it again when you realize they're not there. So every morning I wake up and my girlfriend is not on the phone, it reminds me that she's gone. That's the hardest part,” he said.
“I may not be able to see her, I may not be able to hear her, but I know I will see her again. Sometimes I can feel her. I can feel her presence,” he said. “So that's what gets me through.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates trade for Mariners LHP Happ, Dodgers 1B/OF Morse
- Steelers notebook: Officials discuss new game ball procedures
- Hurdle: Soria likely to assume setup role with Watson
- Pirates place Burnett on 15-day disabled list
- Armstrong escapee caught; murder charges pending
- Gameday: Pirates at Cincinnati, Aug. 1, 2015
- Allegheny County DA’s office: Photo of staffer with gun evidence violates protocol
- MLB notebook: Mets boost lineup, acquire Cespedes from Tigers
- Police: Lincoln-Lemington burglary suspect shoots self during foot chase with police
- West Kittanning church marks 100 years of ups and downs
- Heyl: Longtime disc jockey Jimmy Roach to turn dismissal into brighter times