Linebacker at the Center of Notre Dame’s Resurgence Lands on Sports Illustrated’s Regional CoverPosted: September 26, 2012
Three days before Notre Dame played Michigan State, star Irish linebacker Manti Te’o’s grandmother and his girlfriend died in one six-hour period. While their deaths took an obvious emotional toll, Te’o found refuge in practicing and playing, and helped Notre Dame defeat the Spartans with 12 tackles. Yet Te’o’s influence extends off the field, where he’s helped create a brotherhood among teammates and links the Irish’s glorious past and promising future, especially after spurning the NFL for the chance to complete his senior season (page 42). Subscribers in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Eastern Missouri and almost all of Ohio, as well as parts of Canada, will see Te’o on their cover this week.
Says Father Paul Doyle, the rector in Te’o’s former college dorm: “There’s a lot of emphasis on greatness at this level, but Manti is also focused on goodness.”
Notre Dame was an unlikely choice for Te’o, who dreamed of playing for USC like his idols, Junior Seau and Troy Polamalu. But driven by his Mormon faith, Te’o decided on the Irish after watching the movie Dead Poets Society in his English class and being inspired by a character struggling to make a choice. His prayer for clarity after watching the movie, and several other conversations with family and school mentors, made him realize he wanted to build a legacy at Notre Dame instead of just becoming another somebody at USC.
Says Te’o of the mark he wants to leave on Notre Dame: “It means so much to me that people care about Manti and not necessarily number 5. If I leave any kind of legacy, it’s that what’s important to me is family and the memories and the relationships I’ve built with people.”