Four years ago, Manti Te’o surprised Notre Dame Fighting Irish and USC Trojan fans by deciding to have a change of heart on national signing day and announced that he was going to attend Notre Dame. Early reports had Te’o attending USC before changing his mind. Manti Te’o had a great career at Notre Dame and should be remembered for his accomplishments on the field. Te’o did not need the publicity to increase his legacy. His work in the classroom and on the field spoke for itself. This is a brief reminder of Te’o and his accomplishments at Notre Dame and now that he has said he was not involved in creating the hoax, lets be reminded of what he accomplished at Notre Dame.
Te’o played his first year having a solid start to his career. Te’o started the final eight games for the Irish. Te’o finished fourth on the team in tackles with 63. Te’o finished third all time in tackles by a Notre Dame freshman. After the season, Te’o chose not to leave school and go on his Mormon mission.
Te’o is a Mormon and 19 year olds go on a two-year mission where the young men leave their homes to do missionary service. It is not uncommon for young men to do the mission later in life and Te’o chose to stay at Notre Dame and postpone the mission.
In a 2009 article, Te’o said, “I knew the impact of my decision could have a positive influence on those who follow me and those who watch what I do.” Te’o made what he called biggest decision of his life I just thought that I was sent to Notre Dame for a purpose and that is a purpose I have to devote to.”
In his sophomore season, Te’o was one of 11 players that started all 13 games for Notre Dame. Te’o led the team in tackles with 133, tackles on running plays 95, solo tackles 66 and assisted tackles 67. Te’o had one sack, one forced fumble and two pass break ups.
Te’o continued to improve and had a standout junior season. Te’o finished the year starting all 13 games and finshed with 128 tackles with 13.5 for a loss of yards. Te’o was named to the second team All American by the Associated Press, Walter Camp Football Foundation, S.I.com, Rivals.com and Phil Steele.
Te’o was named a finalist for a number of college footballs most notable awards including Lott and Butkus Awards and a semi-finalist for the Bednarik and Lombardi Awards.
Te’o capped off his memorable junior season being named Notre Dame’s Rockne Student-Athlete of the Year. Te’o performance on the field earned him national recognition and questions began to rise about the NFL.
Te’o could have easily left Notre Dame and attain fame and fortune in the NFL but he chose to stay with his friends, teammates and coaches and graduate from Notre Dame.
“Graduating from Notre Dame is really important to me,” Te’o said in December 2011. “Many people encouraged me to go to the NFL because I could always earn my diploma later in life. If I did that, though, I would not have the chance for the same experiences that are ahead of me in my senior year, and I would not have finished with the guys I started with and care so much about.”
Te’o did stay for his senior year and had one of the best years by any Notre Dame player ever. He was the leader of a dominating defense and helped return Notre Dame to the National Title hunt. Te’o won seven major awards in his final season and it was his play on the field that won the awards, not the sympathy for his tragic loss in September. Te’o had 113 tackles, seven interceptions and led one of the top defenses in the country.
On senior day, Te’o received a standing ovation being cheered by Notre Dame fans when he was introduced was the loudest introduction ever heard by this writer who attended more than forty games at Notre Dame Stadium. Te’o should be remembered at Notre Dame for his on the field accomplishments not the hoax that happened off of the field.