One month away from taking on the No. 2-ranked Crimson Tide in the BCS National Championship, top-ranked Notre Dame gathered Friday evening to recognize the individual achievements that made a 12-0 regular season possible.
Head coach Brian Kelly presents several individual awards Friday
The annual awards show, which was named “The Echoes” this year, featured 17 awards, highlights from the 2012 campaign, a senior video tribute and quite a few zingers from presenters such as Fighting Irish assistant coaches, head coach Brian Kelly and athletics director Jack Swarbrick.
But there were plenty of serious moments, like when 14-year-old Sam Grewe, a diehard Notre Dame fan battling cancer who has served as the squad’s inspiration all season.
“He taught us the value of life,” said Irish director of player development and engagement Ernest Jones.
As the season unfolded, Notre Dame received contributions from the usual suspects, new faces and players that clocked in behind the scenes. Senior linebacker Manti Te’o, who has already scooped up more national awards (six) in one season than any other player in the history of the game, was named the team’s Most Valuable Player. Senior safety Zeke Motta earned Defensive Player of the Year honors and senior Tyler Eifert was selected as Offensive Player of the Year after winning the Mackey Award, which recognizes the nation’s top tight end.
“He could have gone to the NFL just like Tyler [Eifert], wanted to come back for his senior season and see Notre Dame football reach the heights that it has this year,” Kelly said of Te’o, who is in New York for Saturday’s Heisman Trophy Ceremony. “If you ask him about any of those national awards, I think, as it relates to either being a great team or win individual awards, what would you take? There’s no question that Manti Te’o would take the team first. He’s always been about his teammates.
“I’ve gotten the opportunity to be with him over the past week, and at every stop he respects and honors the traditions of each one of these national awards, but all he asks me about every day is about his teammates. He so much wanted to be here tonight; he so much wanted to be part of practice, but he also wants to respect the process.”
Many other Fighting Irish players played crucial roles in the process of ND rattling off victory after victory this year to touch down in Miami on Jan. 7 for a shot at the crystal football. The full list of award winners is below.
Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year
Senior wide receiver Nick Fitzpatrick
Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year
Senior nose guard Tyler Stockton
Offensive Newcomer Player of the Year
Sophomore quarterback Everett Golson
Defensive Newcomer Player of the Year
Freshman cornerback KeiVarae Russell
Irish Around the Bend Award (community involvement)
Fifth-year senior guard Mike Golic Jr.
A-Team Award (accountability, appreciation and achievement)
Fifth-year senior defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore
Count On Me Award (selfless play and reliability)
Senior running back Theo Riddick
Father Lange Iron Cross Award (weight room work ethic)
Fifth-year senior center Braxston Cave
Special Teams Player of the Year
Sophomore placekicker Kyle Brindza
Offensive Lineman of the Year
Senior left tackle Zack Martin
Rockne Student-Athelte Award
Junior outside linebacker Danny Spond
Next Man in Award
Junior quarterback Tommy Rees
Offensive Player of the Year
Senior tight end Tyler Eifert
Defensive Player of the Year
Senior safety Zeke Motta
Most Valuable Player
Senior linebacker Manti Te'o