It’s been a special season for Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o and now he’s being rewarded.
Since the regular season ended for the Irish more than two weeks ago Te’o has picked up six major player awards, including three tonight during the Home Depot College Football Awards show. Just tonight Te’o won the Maxwell Award as the nation’s most outstanding player, the Bednarik Award for top defensive player and Walter Camp Foundation player of the year award.
The senior linebacker became the first defensive player to win the Maxwell Award since 1980 and broke the streak of nine straight quarterbacks winning the award.
“I’m at a loss for words,” he said to reporters after winning the Maxwell Award. “The last time I ever dreamt of winning that award was on a video game. So to win it is a mind-blowing experience.”
Next award up for grabs for Te’o? The Heisman trophy.
Te’o is one of three finalists along with freshman phenom QB Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M and QB Colin Klein of Kansas State. This race may be one of the closest since the award began being handed out in 1935. None of these players necessarily stand out more than the other but they are all phenomenal football that have had breakout seasons.
How good of a chance does Te’o have to win the Heisman? From the amount of the awards he’s picked up already it seems like he has more than a good chance at becoming just the second defensive player to ever win the award. However, Te’o's Maxwell win may mean good things for Maziel’s Heisman chances. Only two of the last ten players that have won the Maxwell Award have then gone on to win the Heisman (Tim Tebow 2007, Cam Newton 2010).
Besides the three awards he won Thursday night Te’o has already picked up the Butkus Award, Bronko Nagurski Trophy and Lombardi Award. The linebacker’s stats on the season back up all of the awards he’s been racking up as he finished the regular season with 101 tackles, two sacks and seven interceptions.
It’s been a banner year for both Te’o and it can get even better in the coming weeks with the Heisman award being handed out this Saturday and then the National Championship game January 7.