A young man of strong faith and incredible loyalty will play his last game in Notre Dame stadium this weekend against Wake Forest. When Manti Te’o runs out of the tunnel Saturday it will be the end of an incredible journey and one that has allowed him to truly see the best of times and the worst. Te’o turned down offers from BYU, Stanford, and USC to make his trek to South Bend based off of faith and family. He also turned down the opportunity in 2010 to follow his faith and go on a two year Mormon mission so he could complete his promise he made to himself and family. He has given Irish fans some incredible moments and in the lean years, a beacon of hope to turn to and rely on. He is a man who has never leaned on excuses for poor play, or caused internal strife towards the coaching staff or teammates. Simply put Mr Te’o is a role model in a world where role models rarely exist anymore.
In his first year he recorded 63 tackles which is the third most in Notre Dame history for a freshmen player, and he has not let up since then. He has positioned himself to possibly win the biggest accolade in the college football world, the Heisman Trophy, which would be an historical accomplishment for himself and the University. He does all of this with a level of humility that most would say is an antiquated emotion in the world of college and pro sports these days. He is the leader of one of the best defenses in the nation and in the midst of incredible adversity, he has risen above it all.
By now most people know the story of Manti losing his girlfriend and grandmother within six hours of each other on the same day. While most people would have emotionally shutdown, Te’o decided to open up and let his Notre Dame family in to help heal and persevere. In the face of such adversity and turmoil not only did he show an incredible ability to maintain his composure, he found the inner strength to focus on other people who were suffering the same way. The star linebacker for the Irish showed just how unselfish he is as he wrote a touching letter to the parents of a 12-year-old girl who was dying from cancer. He did all of this without the hope of national recognition or media fanfare. He did this not for superficial accolades or to strengthen his Heisman opportunity, he simply did it out of kindness, concern and understanding. He did this because he that is type of person he is.
It will be an emotional time when Manti takes off the his golden helmet and walks off the field Saturday evening for the last time and one that will not soon be forgotten by both himself and Irish fans. So many memories, so many emotions, in such a short time and one that will have a lasting impact on the Irish program for years to come. Surrounded by stories of legends past, Manti Te’o has created his own and will have his name mentioned with the likes of Ismail, Brown, Montana and Bettis. It’s not often that a man ends his career in college with such legendary status, but if anyone is deserving of that mantra, it’s the boy from Punahou High School, and the man from Notre Dame – It’s Manti Te’o