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Manti Te’o: The Notre Dame Linebacker Unplugged – Part Two

Nov 27, 2012, 3:44 PM EDT

Photo by Matt Cashore

The following is from a recent feature written by John Walters (’88). We’ll be posting it in segments on the Strong & True blog over the next few days, but you can also check out the full article here.

From the North Shore of the island of Oahu to South Bend, Ind., Manti Te’o cuts an unconventional figure. Here is a Mormon of Polynesian descent attending college at America’s foremost Catholic university. A Hawaii native who chose to attend school six time zones east in northern Indiana. A gentle soul who smashes into ball carriers like a 20-foot wave on the gridiron. A defensive player who is being considered for the Heisman Trophy. Below is a compilation of facts, anecdotes and details on Notre Dame’s No. 5 (the defensive version), who has played a pivotal role in the Irish’s undefeated season.

Memorable Dates:

  • January 26, 1991 . . . Manti Te’o is born.
  • November 22, 2008 . . . On a frigid cold (28 degrees) afternoon in South Bend, Notre Dame loses to a 2-9 Syracuse team during Te’o’s recruiting trip. The weather is so brutal–Te’o had arrived in shorts and flip-flops–that the visiting recruits watch the second half from an inside lounge.
  • December 5, 2008 . . . Te’o receives the inaugural national high school Butkus Award, given to the nation’s outstanding prep linebacker, in Chicago. His parents make a side trip to South Bend to get their first glimpse of Notre Dame.
  • February 3, 2009 . . . On the day before national signing day, Te’o feels certain that he will sign with USC. Then his English teacher at Punahou High School shows the class the 1989 film “Dead Poets’ Society.” Te’o prays, receives a few “signs” and changes his mind to Notre Dame.
  • February 4, 2009 . . . Te’o shocks most observers when, at a nationally-televised announcement, he selects Notre Dame over USC, UCLA, Stanford and BYU. The Notre Dame football coaches watch the live announcement from the Irish staff room and the reaction is audible.
  • September 5, 2009 . . . Te’o enters his first college game at the start of the second defensive series early in the second quarter versus Nevada. On his third snap Te’o tackles Wolf Pack quarterback Colin Kaepernick after an 11-yard gain on third and 15 for his first collegiate tackle.
  • September 25, 2010 . . . Te’o compiles a career-high 21 tackles in a 37-14 home loss to Stanford.
  • December 11, 2011 . . . Te’o announces that he will return to Notre Dame for his senior season.
  • September 15, 2012 . . . Te’o makes a season-high 12 tackles as the Irish knock off 10th-ranked Michigan State 20-3.
  • September 22, 2012 . . . Te’o makes a pair of interceptions as Notre Dame holds 18th-ranked Michigan without a TD in a 13-6 victory for a 4-0 Irish start.
  • October 1, 2012 . . . Te’o is featured on the cover of the regional edition of Sports Illustrated coming off the Irish win over Michigan.
  • October 25, 2012 . . . Te’o is named a National Scholar-Athlete by the National Football Foundation, earning him an $18,000 scholarship.
  • October 27, 2012 . . . Te’o cements a 30-13 win at eighth-rated Oklahoma with a late, diving interception.
  • November 8, 2012 . . . Te’o is named to the Capital One Academic All-District V team by CoSIDA based on his 3.3 GPA and will appear on the national Academic All-America ballot.
  • November 15, 2012 . . . Te’o is named one of five finalists for the Bronco Nagurski Trophy presented to the best defensive player in the country by the Football Writers Association and the Charlotte Touchdown Club (winner announced Dec. 3). Te’o also is named one of eight semifinalists for the Lott IMPACT Trophy (winner announced Dec. 9 in Newport Beach, Calif.).
  • November 17, 2012 . . . Te’o is named one of four finalists for the Rotary Lombardi Award honoring a lineman who displays courage, character and team spirit on and off the gridiron (winner announced Dec. 5 in Houston).
  • November 17, 2012 . . . Te’o makes six tackles in Notre Dame’s shutout win over Wake Forest (Notre Dame’s first shutout victory since 2009) as Irish finish unbeaten at home in a season for the first time since 1998.
  • November 18, 2012 . . . Te’o and his 11-0 Irish team are ranked number one in the Associated Press, ESPN/USA Today and Bowl Championship Series standings—for the first time in any of those polls since 1993.
  • November 19, 2012 . . . Te’o is named one of three finalists for the Chuck Bednarik Award that goes to the top defensive player in the country and one of three finalists for the Maxwell Award that goes to the top player in the country, both as chosen by the Maxwell Football Club (winners announced Dec. 6 at ESPN College Football Awards Show).
  • November 20, 2012 . . . Te’o is named one of five finalists for the Butkus Award that goes to the top linebacker in the nation (winner announced the first week of December).
  • November 24, 2012 . . . Te’o makes his seventh interception of the season (most by an FBS linebacker since 2000) and also tops the 100-tackle mark in a season for the third straight year as Notre Dame completes a perfect 12-0 regular season with a 22-13 win at USC.
  • November 25, 2012 . . . Te’o and his 12-0 Notre Dame team rank atop the polls for a second straight week, the first time since 1989 the Irish have ranked number one in consecutive weeks.

John Walters, a 1988 Notre Dame graduate, is originally from Red Bank, N.J. He has worked as a sports writer at The Daily (an iPad publication), Sports Illustrated, NBC Sports and AOL Fanhouse—and is the author of “Notre Dame Golden Moments: 20 Memorable Events That Shaped Notre Dame Football” and “The Same River Twice.” He also assisted Digger Phelps in authoring “Basketball for Dummies.”

  1. yikeees - Nov 27, 2012 at 7:32 PM




  2. 1historian - Nov 28, 2012 at 12:42 PM

    I remember in 1971 Joe Theisman was a red-hot candidate for the heisman. The nd publicity machine sprang into full throttle and if I remember, joe, whose original name was theesman, changed it to theisman.

    I saw joe on the tube a few days ago in an advertisement for something to do with the male prostate gland, something about not having to ‘go’ so often. Very inspiring, very informative.

    And let’s keep in mind that the award is named after the man who coached Georgia Tech to a 222-0 victory over Cumberland College in 1916.

    Let me say it again – 222-0.

    I’m sure Manti Te’o is a fine young man but what comes up must come down, and when it does – I’m sure he will STILL be a fine young man.

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