The storybook-like legend of Manti Te'o continues to seemingly add chapters with each passing week for the Notre Dame senior linebacker.
A week after overcoming grief attributed to losing his grandmother and girlfriend (leukemia) on consecutive days and leading the Fighting Irish (3-0) to an emphatic 20-3 victory at Michigan State, Te'o again was in the spotlight Thursday.
It was announced that Te'o is one of 30 Football Bowl Subdivision student-athletes to be selected as a finalist for the 2012 Senior CLASS award in collegiate football.
“At Notre Dame, you get a chance to coach a kid like this, it might be once in a lifetime,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said following the win over the Spartans. “That's the kind of kid he is.”
The award honors student-athletes who excel both on and off the gridiron and has notable achievements in four areas of excellence - community, classroom, character and competition.
Te'o felt that in Week 2, he didn't play up to his potential in a win over Purdue. He set his mind on improving against Michigan State, but then midweek, had a personal crisis thrown at him as a roadblock.
"We talked about last week after the Purdue game that we wanted to raise the standards that we make sure we hold each other to those standards.
“Manti didn't believe he played up to the standards,” Kelly said. “He may have been right. So he had set some new standards of his play. Then he had some obviously terrible things happen in his life, and he was still able to maintain those high standards. That makes for a remarkable young man, that he can play the game at a higher level than what many people thought was pretty good anyway, amidst some personal tragedies.”
Te'o has excelled not only on the field, but in virtually each facet of his life. So it is really no surprise that he has been nominated for not just this award, but several others this fall as well.
The Senior CLASS Award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities.
The award will be given to the candidate who best exemplifies excellence in the four Cs of community, classroom, character and competition.
Te'o has been tabbed a candidate for the Bednarik (top defensive player), Nagurski (top defensive player), Lombardi and Butkus Awards, as well as making just about every preseason All-America squad. He ranks second in the FBS among active players in career tackles and fifth in tackles per game.
Te'o finished with a game-high 12 tackles in the victory at No. 10 Michigan State on Sept. 15. He also added a fumble recovery, tackle for loss and two pass breakups. Te'o has now led the Irish in stops on 22 different occasions in his career. The double-digit tackle game against the Spartans was the 20th of his career. He was named Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week following his effort.
In the classroom, Te'o has earned a grade-point average well above 3.0 his entire career at Notre Dame. In 2011, he was named a second-team Academic All-American, becoming the 56th selection in Notre Dame football history. Following the 2011 season, Te'o was selected the football team's recipient of the Rockne student-athlete of the year. He is on pace to graduate this December from Notre Dame, earning his degree in three and a half years.
Off of the field, Te'o was a member of the Boy Scouts and earned Eagle Scout status. He has carried that trait of sacrifice to South Bend and worked during his summer vacation as a volunteer at the South Bend Center for the Homeless.
Te'o interacted with local youths by playing games, reading books and being a positive role model in the lives of South Bend kids.
In addition to his service at that facility, Te'o has participated in the Irish Experience League that brings South Bend-area youths to Notre Dame's campus, where they participate in athletic activities with Notre Dame student-athletes.
In June 2011, Te'o visited the local homeless shelter each day for two weeks and became an inspiration to a number of the child residents. He also helped prepare a Thanksgiving meal at the homeless shelter in 2011.
He was a candidate to enter the 2012 NFL Draft, yet selected to return to Notre Dame for his final season. Te'o is a consensus preseason first-team All-American and was named a second-team All-American by five media outlets in 2011.
He was a finalist for the Lott Trophy and Butkus Award in his junior year and has accumulated 354 tackles, 29.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks, seven pass breakups, two forced fumbles two fumble recoveries and one interception in his career.
Te'o ranks sixth in career tackles at Notre Dame. He has played in all 41 games over his Notre Dame career, starting 39 total contests including 38 consecutive games.