Dec 3, 2012, 8:45 AM EDT
The following is from a recent feature written by John Walters (’88). We’ve been posting it in segments on the Strong & True blog over the past few days, but you can also check out the full article here. Here’s the final part.
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.
Defensive Players in Heisman Trophy Voting (Since 1980):
2011 . . . Tyrann Mathieu, LSU, CB…………………….5th
2009 . . . Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska, DL……………4th
1997 . . . Charles Woodson, Michigan, CB/PR……..Winner
1992 . . . Marvin Jones, Florida State, LB…………….4th
1991 . . . Steve Emtman, Washington, DL……………4th
1986 . . . Brian Bosworth, Oklahoma, LB……………..4th
1983 . . . Terry Hoage, Georgia, S………………………5th
1980 . . . Hugh Green, Pittsburgh, DE………………….2nd
Notre Dame Defensive Players in Heisman Trophy Voting:
1977 . . . Ross Browner, DE………………………. 5th
1975 . . . Steve Niehaus, DT………………………. 12th
1971 . . . Walt Patulski, DE……………………….. 9th
1969 . . . Mike McCoy, DT……………………….. 6th
There is a “C” on the front of Manti Te’o’s jersey, signifying his status as one of Notre Dame’s team captains (tight end Tyler Eifert, defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore and offensive tackle Zack Martin are the others). However, Te’o prefers–has always preferred–to lead by example rather than with words.
“I think it’s a Polynesian thing, “Te’o told Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times earlier this summer. “We’re very quiet people. We’re hard-working, but we’re very quiet.
“I don’t want to be one of those guys that, when I speak, everyone just rolls their eyes and says, ‘Oh, it’s the same old Manti, same old things.’ When I speak, it’s different. When I speak, you feel it.”
Twice in his four seasons, Te’o has noticeably shared his feelings on game day with teammates. As a sophomore before the team’s final regular-season game at USC, Manti stood up in the locker room before the game and challenged the seniors to make a statement. The Irish, after all, had not beaten USC since 2000.
“I told them that history is written by the victorious,” Te’o told Bill Knight of the El Paso Times. “I told the seniors, what legacy will you leave behind? Will you be just another class who lost to USC? Or will you be the senior class that jump-started this program.”
The Irish won that rainy night in the Los Angeles Coliseum, 21-16.
Earlier this autumn, in the pouring rain and in overtime versus Stanford, Te’o addressed his defensive teammates, all of them with their feet in the north end zone, just before the Cardinal lined up for a potential game-tying touchdown on fourth and goal from the one-yard line. “I love you guys, no matter what happens,” Te’o told his teammates.
The Irish stopped Cardinal running back Stepfan Taylor on fourth down and preserved their undefeated season.
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.”
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