Surprising as it may sound, Notre Dame's last appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated was in 2006. Thanks to linebacker Manti Te'o and a 4-0 start, that drought is over.
Te'o is on the cover this week, at least regionally. The Chicago Tribune said the cover will be on magazines mostly in Midwest states.
That's still a good deal for the Irish football program, whose last appearance featured Brady Quinn, Tom Zbikowski and Travis Thomas on the Aug. 22, 2006 season preview edition (Notre Dame did get on the basketball preview in 2008).
Notre Dame was a darling of Sports Illustrated for years, especially in the Lou Holtz era, getting a whopping eight covers from 1986-90, then coming back for two more in 1993. But as Notre Dame slipped from the annual national title conversation (insert "Notre Dame is irrelevant!" discussion here), SI had mostly left the Irish off the cover.
Te'o is a perfect player for that national recognition. He has played through the deaths of his girlfriend and grandmother, was hailed as perhaps "the perfect Notre Dame player" by athletic director Jack Swarbrick for the way he handles himself on and off the field, and has played exceptionally. He has 38 tackles and three interceptions through four games, and is making a case as the best defensive player in college football.
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