Jan 3, 2013, 12:55 PM EDT
If you want an idea of the relationship forged between defensive coordinator Bob Diaco and his star linebacker Manti Te’o, your best insight wasn’t gleaned from the 45 minutes they spent answering questions asked by the assembled media. It was in the few minutes leading up to the media session, where the coach and player caught up on the previous evening’s events, gabbing like two students in the back of a lecture hall trying to keep their voices beneath the grasp of the conference room microphones.
The two whispered and smiled, recapping a fun night in South Florida, some rare down time before the biggest football game in the life of both coach and player. For Irish fans that have watched Te’o speak weekly with the press, nothing he said today was a surprise. He is, and continues to be, one of the most incredible interviews you’ll ever hear, and a wisdom and maturity beyond his years comes out when he answers even the most mundane of questions. And for those Irish fans that have watched Diaco over the past few seasons do his best with the press, this was a session similar to many others, the young assistant answered every question respectfully, yet gave nothing away in the process.
But the pairing of Diaco and Te’o made one thing abundantly clear: Both coach and player were made for each other.
For the young coordinator, he has a star pupil that mirrors the rare passion and love for the game that the coach possesses. He has a leader that performs like one of the most talented players in the country, but practices like a walk-on at spring tryouts. That type of effort from a star is a coach’s best friend, it’s a beacon that helped turn one of the nation’s worst defenses into the top unit in the country.
For the star linebacker, he found his leader at the perfect time. After a freshman season spent playing on instinct and talent, the last three years were spent learning the game from a man perfectly suited to teach him; a coach that shares his passion for faith, for football, and for family. When Te’o was hit with the personal tragedy that came his way this fall, he leaned as much on Diaco, and what he’s taught him about being a man, as he did anybody else.
“It’s well documented how I feel about Manti,” Diaco said. “For as talented a player he is, which you guys
have all had an opportunity to see over his career, he’s a better person.
“You know, on a day where maybe as a coach you might be feeling a little down or maybe slightly distracted
with the world’s pulls, Manti is easy to see, look at and see his face and immediately be energized.”
That energy pulls both ways, as Diaco — as relentless of a coach as their is in the country — continually fuels the unit that he leads. He’s a demanding leader, no doubt, but also does so in a way that preaches respect and love, words not often found inside the walls of a college football program. In charge of the bond between players in the defensive meeting room, Diaco has built a group that feels more familial than any at Notre Dame defense in recent memory.
“The connection that we have with our coaches is a bond that’s very different. It’s kind of like a family members,” Te’o explained. “We know all their children, their children know us by name. They don’t know us as, ‘Oh, you’re No. 5 or you’re No. 89…’ They know us as ‘Hi, Kap.’ ‘Hi, Manti.’ That’s the bond that we have with our coaches and their families.”
This Irish defense and those well forged bonds will all be tested Monday night by an Alabama team that draws nothing but admiration from both coach and player.
“Their organization led by Coach Saban is so fun to watch from a football purist standpoint,” Diaco said. “As Manti said, we look at those guys and say, hey, we’d love to have them as teammates. We do that.”
Mutual admiration was all around Thursday, with Notre Dame and Alabama players echoing similar thoughts — all said sincerely enough that you didn’t actually think coaches made them do it.
But that’s where we find ourselves, anxiously awaiting undefeated Notre Dame battling defending champion Alabama. That the Irish find themselves here, trading compliments with one of the best programs of the decade, is another head-shaking moment for a program that’s fought its way to the top.
And that wouldn’t have been possible without the pairing of Bob Diaco and Manti Te’o, a star defensive coach and his dazzling pupil.
“I think all of the growth of our team has to do with this man sitting beside me and the rest of our defensive coaches,” Te’o said.
Jun 19, 2013, 2:35 PM EDT
Not many skill players have come to Notre Dame in recent years with the expectations of Florida’s Greg Bryant. After a heralded prep career, Bryant walks onto campus with many believing he’s already the best running back in South Bend. Of course, heralded freshmen phenoms are nothing new for the Irish. But getting the type…
Jun 19, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT
As part of their build up for the upcoming season, ESPN’s Insiders took a look at the health of major programs as they are positioned for the future. While Power Rankings have turned into a staple of just about every daily website, a Future Power Ranking was a cool idea. The group of Travis Haney,…
Jun 18, 2013, 10:50 AM EDT
When Hunter Bivin gave a verbal commitment to Notre Dame, most fans thought the Irish were getting a prototype offensive tackle that had the chance to compete for the job of Zack Martin’s replacement. It turns out the Irish were getting much, much more, with the versatile Bivin being a veritable Swiss Army Knife for…
Jun 16, 2013, 12:41 PM EDT
With the freshman class on campus and the football team starting voluntary workouts and summer school, the team is now in the hands of strength coach Paul Longo and medical trainer Rob Hunt. That’s good news for an important recruiting class that will likely have a few early contributors come September. One athlete who doesn’t…
Jun 13, 2013, 8:17 PM EDT
Caught up in the commotion of DeShone Kizer’s commitment to the Irish was the news of how Kizer actually committed to Notre Dame. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound quarterback called to deliver the good news to Brian Kelly and the head coach wasn’t in South Bend, but actually in New England spending some time with Bill Belicheck…
Jun 12, 2013, 8:00 PM EDT
For those worried about the Irish defensive line after the surprising loss of Eddie Vanderdoes, it’s probably worth taking a look at who’s returning along the Irish front. Just about everybody. While the Irish lose senior captain Kapron Lewis-Moore to graduation, they return five of their top six players up front, including All-American caliber talent…
Jun 12, 2013, 11:52 AM EDT
After a lot of grumbling by Arizona State athletic director Steve Patterson, it appears that Notre Dame and Arizona State’s game in 2014 will go on after all. The Sun Devil’s athletic director took to the internet yesterday to announce that the Irish’s date in Tempe that looked to be in jeopardy is back on…
Jun 11, 2013, 9:00 PM EDT
Notre Dame received the commitment of Toledo quarterback DeShone Kizer Tuesday. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound quarterback had offers from Alabama, Arkansas, LSU, Penn State, and Tennessee among others. “I am privileged to say that I will be continuing my Fighting Irish tradition by playing football at the University of Notre Dame!” Kizer Tweeted this afternoon. Kizer’s…
Jun 10, 2013, 5:41 PM EDT
We’re a week away from freshman reporting to summer school — finalizing the assembly of the 2013 Fighting Irish football team on campus and beginning offseason workouts. Across the country, guys like Greg Bryant and Jaylon Smith say goodbye to home and high school and prepare to go from All-Everything recruits to freshmen football players,…
Jun 7, 2013, 7:01 PM EDT
As someone that had the opportunity to participate in this coaching staff’s very first Fantasy Camp, I can tell you that it’s an incredible experience. The Notre Dame staff roles out the red carpet for both campers and returning alums, making the short week one of the best experiences you could ever hope for if…
Jun 6, 2013, 1:40 AM EDT
Editors Note: While there’s no doubt that Rees will be the starting quarterback against Temple, the headline of this story has been tweaked to be a little less definitive, as talking at a banquet hardly construes an official announcement. UPDATE: It appears that Kelly did more than hint at Rees being the frontrunner for the…
Jun 5, 2013, 6:39 PM EDT
In one of the great examples of June being the Sahara for college football fans, Notre Dame recruit Elijah Hood, one of the best running backs in the country, got caught up in social media circus yesterday, courtesy of a Vine video he made. Hood, one of the most active social media users in the…
Jun 4, 2013, 5:11 PM EDT
Eddie Vanderdoes won’t be attending Notre Dame. Both Brian Kelly and the talented defensive lineman agree on that. How the situation ever got to this point, well that’s a story most people are still trying to figure out. Today, after a few weeks of murky details slowly coming to the surface, Vanderdoes, Notre Dame and…
Jun 3, 2013, 1:52 PM EDT
Summer break is over for the Irish football team. Returning members of the football team came back to South Bend yesterday to begin preparation for the 2013 season. While all workouts are technically voluntary, every player (freshmen will show up in two weeks) is expected to begin work with strength and conditioning coach Paul Longo…
May 31, 2013, 6:00 AM EDT
Everett Golson intends to return to Notre Dame after his suspension. That’s the good news. But for Brian Kelly and his coaching staff, there’s no planning for good intentions, and right now the quarterback depth chart looks vastly different without Golson at the top of it. The once robust quarterback group had a very tough…
May 28, 2013, 4:13 PM EDT
Since the revelation of Everett Golson‘s suspension from Notre Dame, not much had been clear about the future of the Irish’s starting quarterback. But after listening to head coach Brian Kelly, one thing now is: The door is wide open for Golson to return in the spring. Kelly spoke briefly with the media Tuesday afternoon,…
May 27, 2013, 5:34 PM EDT
In the span of one holiday weekend, the trajectory of Notre Dame’s football program has been irrevocably changed. That’s not hyperbole. Coming off a twelve-win season and finally solving a quarterback conundrum that took three seasons to sort, Brian Kelly turned down an opportunity to jump to the NFL, presumably because he saw the bright…
May 26, 2013, 9:22 PM EDT
A day after news broke that Everett Golson was no longer enrolled at Notre Dame, the quarterback confirmed and clarified the circumstances surrounding his shocking departure. With the university bound to silence due to privacy laws, Golson himself acknowledged an academic situation that let to a suspension for the fall semester, ending his football season…
May 26, 2013, 12:40 AM EDT
Starting quarterback Everett Golson is no longer enrolled at Notre Dame. The bombshell was confirmed last Saturday night by university spokesman Dennis Brown to multiple outlets, with local NBC affiliate WNDU the first to report the news. Two sources tells Inside the Irish that an academic violation is the root of the problem, and may…
May 24, 2013, 6:59 PM EDT
With the unofficial kickoff to summer upon us, we’re inside 100 days until football is back. That may seem like quite a long time, but we’ve got plenty of ground to cover in the next few months as we get a better look at what the 2013 Fighting Irish will be. Before everybody disappears for…
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