When the University of Notre Dame gained the commitment of five-star linebacker Manti Te'o in 2009, they knew they were getting a top-tier athlete. What they didn't know, however, was the type of man they were recruiting and to what extent his maturity level and determination would raise the standards of the Irish program.
After winning, virtually, every award possible in high school, and being recognized as, perhaps, the greatest athlete to have ever come from the state of Hawaii, Te'o has solidified himself as a potential 2012 Heisman Trophy candidate and one of the greatest athletes in the history of the University of Notre Dame.
During his first season in South Bend, the Freshman All-American recorded 63 tackles (the third-most in school history). He followed that up in 2010 by leading the Irish with 133 tackles and found himself a finalist for the Butkis and Bednarik Awards.
In 2011, he led the team with 128 tackles. He was, again, named a finalist for the Butkis Award, as well as the Lott Trophy. He would receive the honor of being named Independent Defensive Player of the Year.
As the 2012 season rolls into its fifth week, Te'o remains one of college football's most dominating figures. Nothing, it seems, can slow down the defensive assault of Notre Dame's prized linebacker, not even the loss of his grandmother and girlfriend, which happened days apart in early September. In the aftermath, Te'o delivered two of his greatest career performances, as the Irish defeated both Michigan State and Michigan in subsequent weeks.
Te'o has led by example, and not just on the football field. A stout believer in volunteerism, he has spent much of his free time working with several institutions such as the Shriner's Hospital, Head Start programs and Special Olympics. To many outside the realm of football, he has become known as a caring, compassionate man who truly cares about the world around him.
More than just an athletic talent, Te'o has solidified himself as a true leader and man who deserves the respect of all. He will remain synonymous with the words grit, intensity and determination. He will also remain lodged in the rich legacy of the University of Notre Dame as one of the greatest players of all time.
The author, D. Benjamin Satkowiak, is a successful entrepreneur and published, freelance author, who has tailored works on various sports, health and fitness topics. He currently serves as a Yahoo! Contributor Network "Featured Contributor" and writes on the Detroit Tigers, Detroit Lions, Great Lakes Loons and Notre Dame football.
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