This is cool to see. Manti Te’o played his last down of football in the Superdome, finding a successful second life with the New Orleans Saints, but on Saturday he returned where he rose to prominence as a college star at Notre Dame. And he was welcomed back to campus by a throng of cheering fans.
Good for him. Te’o’s career experienced highs and lows, with the linebacker earning consensus All-American honors and becoming the face of Notre Dame football before his team suffered a crushing defeat to Alabama in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game. He was the victim of an online catfishing scheme that did a lot to tarnish his reputation, and which became the subject of a recent Netflix documentary to accurately tell the story.
After being selected in the second round of the 2013 draft by the then-San Diego Chargers, Te’o struggled to stay on the field with injuries and ended up leaving in free agency, following his old coach Mike Nolan to New Orleans. Te’o played a full 16-game season for the first time in his career in 2017, logging 10 starts, but was supplanted in the starting lineup by Demario Davis the following offseason.
He hung around with the Saints as an experienced backup for a few years and signed with the Chicago Bears in 2020 as a reserve, though he didn’t get into a game until, ironically, they visited New Orleans in the playoffs. Te’o was instrumental for the Saints in some big moments — the first that comes to mind is him and Vonn Bell stopping Washington running back Samaje Perine together on a crucial 3rd-and-1 late in their thrilling 2017 comeback win, setting up the game-tying score by New Orleans on a subsequent possession to help send the game to overtime.
Now he’s at peace and retired from pro ball, enjoying life as one of Notre Dame’s all-time fan favorites. Te’o was on hand Saturday to see the Fighting Irish go into halftime down 10-7 against California, only to rally in the second half and win the day 24-17. It was the first win of Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman’s tenure, and it’s fitting that Te’o had a front-row seat to witness it.