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Te’o earns his way onto the cover of Sports Illustrated

Sep 27, 2012, 2:59 PM EDT

Manti Te'o SI

The issue should have arrived in mailboxes around the country yesterday, with Sports Illustrated featuring Manti Te’o on the cover of thousands of magazines. It’s the first time Notre Dame has been featured on the front since 2006, when Brady Quinn, Tommy Zbikowski, and Travis Thomas were on the cover of the college football preview issue.

Teo’s regional cover was sent to the majority of the Midwest, hitting all of Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, eastern Missouri, Ohio and parts of Canada. (The rest of the country got the Baltimore Orioles, and an issue featuring sports in the Nation’s capital.)

The profile on Te’o, written by former New York Times writer Pete Thamel is a wonderful read, and while it doesn’t uncover anything particularly new on Te’o or his journey to South Bend, it’s a terrific reminder that Notre Dame landed a transcendent defensive player that has perfectly bridged the gap between the past and the present.

Te’o has more than done his part in the locker room, embodying the Hawaiian traits of humility and family. He is delighted that his teammates now refer to each other as uce—Samoan slang for bro—and relish the meaning of the word. Te’o and Toma, his roommate and fellow Punahou alum, invite teammates over for dinners of Spam and eggs— “that is my weakness, Spam and Pam,” Te’o says with a laugh— and host games of spades nearly every night. “There’s just more of a closeness with this team,” says Toma, one of the Irish’s most reliable wide receivers. “We’re actually having fun again.”

Te’o’s leadership by example reached a high point when he decided to forgo first-round NFL money and return to South Bend for his senior year. One presentation he sat through with his parents, Brian and Ottilia, showed that staying in school could cost Manti $4 million. Brian and Ottilia are both in education, and Manti is the oldest of their seven children. (One brother, Brian Jr., passed away at three months old.) “We had never seen that many commas before,” Brian says.

Manti’s reasons for returning will inevitably be used as an Irish recruiting pitch for years to come. He told students at a pep rally at Dillon Hall, “You’re the reason I’m coming back.” Te’o also wanted something else: to experience Senior Day with his parents. At the end of his junior season, he watched as Steve Filer, a five-star linebacker who never panned out and tore his ACL as a senior, took the field for the last time. “I saw Steve crutch out there and the joy that his parents had in their eyes,” he says. “That’s when I realized, ‘Mom and Dad, it doesn’t matter. I want to share that with you.’”

While rumblings of a Heisman Trophy campaign have started on the internet, there’s no current plan for Notre Dame to start one. (Of course, Te’o’s play on the field might do the sports information department’s job for them.) Still, if there’s any question how good of a football player Te’o has become this season, defensive coordinator Bob Diaco let his opinion be known yesterday.

“Manti’s the finest football player in America, all positions, all teams in college,” Diaco said. “And he’s the best football player that I’ve personally coached.”

  1. dudeacow - Sep 27, 2012 at 3:11 PM

    I’m glad he’s gaining all of these honors. Te’o certainly deserves them after all he has been through in the past couple of weeks.

    • heisenbyrg - Sep 27, 2012 at 3:22 PM

      He deserves them for his play on the field. The fact that he’s navigating personal hardship just makes it extra special.

  2. dickasman - Sep 27, 2012 at 3:56 PM

    I am so glad I did my part by challenging him to lose some weight and start making difference making plays and he did that. Here’s looking at you kid!

    • bernhtp - Sep 27, 2012 at 9:39 PM

      We are all so very grateful.

  3. sinister23 - Sep 27, 2012 at 4:22 PM

    Brady Quinn…that was the best draft EVER!!!! I heard he actually began recieving his mail in the green room…perminant residence…ohh, how well did Quinn and those guys do in the NFL? ….exactly.

    • runners00 - Sep 27, 2012 at 5:16 PM

      Ever hear of Justin Tuck, the New York Giants captain and Notre Dame alum? How about the other 28 players currently in the NFL who went to ND?

    • seadomer - Sep 27, 2012 at 5:34 PM

      Sin, you never did tell me which team you support. Since you keep showing concern about the Irish and even the Irish in the NFL, I’m going to count you as an ND Fan albeit the other end of the spectrum. Nonetheless, thanks for constantly keeping us from gulping too much koolaid especially if we get to 6-6

      • seadomer - Sep 27, 2012 at 5:36 PM

        I meant 6-0 hahaha (puts koolaid glass down)

    • Keith Arnold - Sep 27, 2012 at 7:03 PM

      Sinister — I’m all for a variety of opinions here. But not a straight troll. Everybody else here has figured out how to do it.


      The Management

      • nudeman - Sep 27, 2012 at 8:31 PM

        He’s not a finesse guy.
        If you need 2 yards, sinister will get you 2 yards
        If you need 6 yards, sinister will get you 2 yards
        Then fumble

      • grantland1924 - Sep 27, 2012 at 10:54 PM

        Sinister is always so insightful and unpredictable. His handle says it all, he’s sooooo sinister….

        Go troll on FSU’s site, I hear they’re back now too

    • ndgoldandblue - Sep 27, 2012 at 7:30 PM

      sinister, you’re back! I thought you’d left. It’s a good thing you didn’t because I need my daily fill of ellipses, and you take care of that in one post.

    • dickasman - Sep 27, 2012 at 7:58 PM

      I agree w sinister Brady’s soooooo HaaaWWWWWTTTT! I want to have his babies!

    • c4evr - Sep 27, 2012 at 9:04 PM

      It’s even further testament to T’eo that even the great Sin23 had to bring up Quinn because he couldn’t find a disparaging thing to say about MT.

    • tsombanj - Sep 28, 2012 at 8:54 AM

      Sinister23 – you can’t even spell “permanent”. Clearly you are not a Notre Dame guy. Thanks for verifying.

  4. bernhtp - Sep 27, 2012 at 4:41 PM

    This is the great Diaco press conference from which the quote comes. I would love for him to write and deliver my obituary when the time finally comes.

    • zorichmidriff - Sep 27, 2012 at 5:59 PM

      Love Diaco. Love him. This guy is golden.

      • dickasman - Sep 27, 2012 at 8:25 PM

        He is sooooo HOTT!

      • zorichmidriff - Sep 27, 2012 at 11:20 PM

        Watchit. He’ll got Freddy Kreuger on you.

    • ndgoldandblue - Sep 27, 2012 at 11:09 PM

      The more I watch Diaco speak (in interviews or in press conferences), the more sure I am that the guy is nuts. And I mean that as a compliment.

    • 9irish - Sep 27, 2012 at 11:13 PM

      He’ll be a head coach in the MAC or something in about 2 years. Bad thing about having great assistant coaches, you don’t have them very long. That’s a deal I’ll take, though

    • nudeman - Sep 28, 2012 at 10:59 AM

      On the other board, there’s a video that’s been posted of Tenuta
      If you’re one of the only ones who isn’t impressed by Diaco, go look at a Tenuta interview

  5. mentoneirish - Sep 27, 2012 at 5:04 PM

    I before E, except after C.

    • dickasman - Sep 27, 2012 at 8:29 PM

      A sphincter says what?!?!?! Oh I get it is that like similar to bj before sax?

  6. dbldmr - Sep 27, 2012 at 5:15 PM

    …and the word is “permanent”, sinister.

  7. ndirish10 - Sep 27, 2012 at 5:43 PM

    Guys, just ignore the trolls. Don’t even give them the thumbs down, I believe they get off on them. This will be the only and last I speak of them. Go Irish!!!

  8. ensirish - Sep 27, 2012 at 7:28 PM

    I live in VA. How can I get a copy of the SI edition with Te’o?

    • 9irish - Sep 27, 2012 at 11:51 PM

      about where at in VA? I bet up in the N. VA Metro area they would have that copy

      • 9irish - Sep 27, 2012 at 11:53 PM

        I should say they would probably have BOTH covers.

  9. ndfanwabashman - Sep 27, 2012 at 8:08 PM

    Best PERSON in football. If the Heisman were more like the Gagliardi trophy in D3, he would have it in the bag.

    Also, he hasn’t cost himself a dime in the draft. If anything he’s made himself $4million.

    • houstonirishfan1976 - Sep 28, 2012 at 3:55 PM

      What they mean is that because of the beating football players take, especially someone playing Middle Linebacker, Te’o will likely be able to play minimum of 1 year less in the NFL (i.e. easier for a 21 year old to recover than a 35 year old with 14 additional years of bumps, bruises and injuries). Therefore, he cost himself $4 million, which they are saying would have been his estimated salary during his potential 1st year in the NFL.

  10. seadomer - Sep 27, 2012 at 8:26 PM

    Note to SI:

    You might wanna ship abt 50,000 copies to Hawaii.

  11. zice03 - Sep 27, 2012 at 8:50 PM

    What a difference between a player that transfers and never was a ND player, and a kid that represents all of what Notre Dame stands for. For all the haters out there, keep up the good work, seems to be helping. Thank You

  12. c4evr - Sep 27, 2012 at 9:01 PM

    Nice for him to receive these accolades, but I bet if you look closely, this doesn’t mean that much to him. He was a rock solid human being before arriving on campus and all these accomplishments and achievements are a result of hard work, balanced character, and total focus on what’s important. He’s an RKG for humanity. This team’s 4-0 start (and success going forward) owes a great debt of gratitude to this young man.

  13. North of Denver - Sep 27, 2012 at 9:45 PM

    KA: Teo “earns” his way onto the cover. Yes, yes he did. Nice job.

  14. sinister23 - Sep 27, 2012 at 11:07 PM

    Keith: Its cute you guys developed a word to identify individuals whom openly express opinions without formal invitation to the ridiculous cult that is your blog. Is it possible to cover a team without showing complete disregard for the facts? Must you be bias?
    The Realist Openly Letting Loose (TROLL)

    • ndgoldandblue - Sep 28, 2012 at 8:28 AM

      Bleh. sinister, it’s “…to identify individuals who openly express opinions”, not whom. And it’s “Must you be biased?”, not bias. Biased is the adjective that would describe the noun in the subject position (Keith). Bias is a non-count noun, and as we all know, human beings cannot be non-count nouns. That is unless you’re from a certain generation of peaceful children who believe that humans can be love, or something of that ilk.

  15. irish2011 - Sep 27, 2012 at 11:13 PM

    I remember watching the press conference when he picked ND. I couldn’t believe a Def stud picked ND.

  16. tbone71 - Sep 27, 2012 at 11:33 PM

    Nudeman, you are hands down the best poster on any blog anywhere. Most often I stumble through the story just to see what you will have to say. That’s not a knock on Keith though. Keep it up, the both of you.

    • jerseyshorendfan1 - Sep 28, 2012 at 2:23 PM

      Signed tbone71 (nudeman’s other screen name).

      • nudeman - Sep 28, 2012 at 3:07 PM

        Actually no … don’t know who tbone is but his comment is HIS comment

      • ndgoldandblue - Sep 28, 2012 at 11:00 PM

        LOL…I was actually thinking the same thing. Wait a minute. That gives me a great idea. Note to self, create a new handle for the Inside the Irish blog.

  17. sinister23 - Sep 28, 2012 at 6:18 AM

    Just incase you guys believe ill pipe down….i post to this free app (id never pay) from my smart phone which 1stSGT allows me to carry 24/7. Get used to me ND FAKEFUL
    The Realist One Letting Loose

    • nudeman - Sep 28, 2012 at 11:00 AM

      I personally don’t care if you pipe down or pipe up
      I just wish you’d pipe up your game. So far, D-

  18. jerseyshorendfan1 - Sep 28, 2012 at 2:28 PM

    Teo gets many well-deserved accolades as an athlete but he is an even better person. Who would risk losing $4M just to experience the joy and pride of their parents? He is a gifted and extraordinarily rare human being.

  19. ensirish - Sep 28, 2012 at 2:52 PM

    9irish, I’m in Yorktown. I’ve looked at a few newsstands but haven’t seen any. I looked online as well.

    • nudeman - Sep 28, 2012 at 3:13 PM

      Sorry to rain on the parade of that angle in the story, but it is revisionist history

      T’eo was told he’d be a 3rd rounder and my guess is THAT was by far the biggest influencing factor.
      Similar to Floyd who got a 3rd round projection after 2010 and decided to come back.

      I’m not saying Manti doesn’t love ND and that wasn’t a factor
      But propagating the story that that was THE reason for his return is disingenuous

      However, gotta’ give it to him. Just like Floyd, he’s gotten in better shape, upped his game and barring injury should definitely be a 1st round pick

      Would look great in a Bears’ uniform, IMO

      • houstonirishfan1976 - Sep 28, 2012 at 3:47 PM

        That is not true…click link below. Mel Kiper is usually pretty close to accurate on where people will go:

      • papadec - Sep 29, 2012 at 4:12 AM

        nude – gotta disagree with you regarding a uniform for MT – I think he would look better in a Giant’s uniform playing with Tuck. Probably just wishful thinking on my part.

    • 9irish - Sep 28, 2012 at 9:37 PM

      ensirish, I forgot about the issue being about Washington DC sports! I lived around Fredericksburg recently, it’s such a transient area (nobody is actually from there), I thought maybe it would be easier than it is, I guess.

  20. fitz79 - Sep 28, 2012 at 7:18 PM

    This is really cool. Makes me proud to be a Notre Dame fan and a fan of the great T’eo!

  21. irisheyesnate - Sep 29, 2012 at 12:46 PM

    Sinister is mad bc I go hard in the paint w his girl
    Mean muggin us bc he can’t

  22. loadofwash - Oct 1, 2012 at 8:53 AM

    Over rated

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