Roughly 40 members of Manti Te’o’s family will be in South Bend this weekend to watch his final home game at Notre Dame. Emotions will be as tough of an opponent as Wake Forest Saturday for the always quotable inside linebacker. In his own words, here is how Te’o is feeling as he reflects on his four years at Notre Dame and looks forward to the crazy four weeks to come.
Irish captain Manti Te'o celebrates after a play in Nore Dame's 13-6 win over Michigan this September.
You said Senior Day and all that comes with it was one of the reasons you decided to come back to school this year. What are some of those emotions that pulled you back?
Te’o: “I remember it felt like it was last week that I was talking to Michael Floyd and asking him to remember how it felt on his senior game. I was going to ask him about it, and I remember him telling me, ‘There is nothing like it.’ Seems like just last week he was telling me that. Now in a few days I'll be experiencing my own Senior Day. So it comes fast. I couldn't have pictured it any better than to run out of that tunnel for one last time.”
Coach Kelly said that your legacy is far from being written. But when all is said and done, what kind of imprint do you hope to leave behind?
Te'o: “Just one of the best to not only play but to attend this great university. There have been great athletes that have come through here. Just to be mentioned among them is what I'm trying to be.
“If you don't do things to be the best at it, why are you doing it? So I'm just trying to be the best. Once I leave here, I hope that the impact I've made not only on the football field but in people's lives will forever be remembered.”
You touched on legacy, and your name right now is being thrown around in the Heisman consideration. Does that cross your mind at this point?
Te'o: “No. I think when my name is being tossed around as a national champion, that's what I'm looking for. You ask any Heisman winner that wasn't a national champion what they would rather be, and I think they would rather be the latter, a national champion. So that's what I want. I’d rather be holding a crystal ball than a bronze statue. That's just me.”
When you talk to potential recruits what is your message to them?
Te'o: “I always told them that I love this school so I'm always going to be biased towards Notre Dame.I tell them, ‘Hey, when you're a champion at other schools you're a champion. When you're a champion at Notre Dame, you become a legend.”
Has your Notre Dame career been what you expected it to be so far?
Te'o: “No. It's been more than what I expected, it's been more than what I hoped for, and that's what's going to make this Saturday that much more of a special experience for me and my family.”
What got you through the growing pains [of freshman year] and what let you know that you could last there and make it?
Te'o: “Just my family. My family sacrificed a lot for me to be here, and for me to give up and to quit, it just wasn't in me. I understood the time and the money and just the countless hours that my family sacrificed so that I could be here standing in front of this microphone. So for me to give up, it just wasn't in the equation.”
I think you talked about last year at the awards show seeing the video where the parents were talking about their kids and so forth. Talk about that impact on you. Did that surprise you how hard that hit you?
Te'o: “Yeah, I think that was the tipping point for me on whether or not I was going to enter into the draft or not. To see that, that was that moment where I said, Yeah, I know what I'm going to do — to see that video and see just the joy in their parents' eyes and see the joy in my teammates eyes.”
“Because I had some teammates that ran out in full gear about to play and some that came out on crutches. Each of them had the same expression on their face: just joy. That's something that money can't buy. Money can't buy that experience. I've realized that.”