Manti Te'o had a lot of experience losing in his first three seasons at Notre Dame.
Now, the Irish linebacker and captain has the Irish ranked 5th in the country and still undefeated midway through the regular season. Notre Dame battles BYU Saturday, a game most feel will be an easy victory for the Irish.
Te'o however says he's staying focused at the task at hand and not looking elsewhere.
How does he do that?
"There are guys who love to win, but for me, my hate to lose is greater than my love to win," Te'o said Wednesday. "I hate losing. That's what drives me. I'm going to try and do whatever I can to avoid that feeling of walking out of any stadium with that feeling. I would rather be the guy who learns that lesson from watching other teams lose than experience it myself."
With Notre Dame 6-0 and all he's been through this season with the passing of his grandmother and girlfriend in the same week, Te'o is becoming a national figure. He even got a mention on twitter from WWE Superstar John Cena, who called Te'o a class act.
"I was working out, and then I came in and Tyler Stockton was like, 'you're an American hero.' I'm like, 'What are you talking about?' He was like, 'John Cena Tweeted at you,'" Te'o explained. "I immediately sprinted into the locker room to check it out."
"I know a lot about it," Te'o said of the WWE. "I mean, obviously wrestling and WWE, I was a big WWE fan when I was little. The Rock is my favorite wrestler, and Goldberg."
Perhaps Manti doesn't watch WWE anymore. If he did, he would realize responding to a compliment from John Cena with a reply that his favorite wrestler is The Rock, isn't the best way to say thanks. The Rock and Cena are arch enemies after all.
Manti's biggest compliment this week came from his head coach. Brian Kelly said Tuesday that Te'o is the best leader he's had on or off the field in 22 years of coaching.
"That's a big compliment from Coach Kelly," Te'o explained. "For me, I just try to instill love. I think as a leader, as a captain, whenever you have guys around you that love you and respect you and that will do anything for you, that's when you'll experience a lot of success."
"I think that as a team we've grown that mentality here. We don't play for ourselves. We play for the guy next to us and this university and our families and friends. So we don't play for ourselves. I think that's been the strength of this team."
Notre Dame is 6-0 for the first time in 10 years and just the 5th time in the past 25 years.
"I think it's great to be 6 0 and to have that excitement on campus," Te'o said. "But as we've talked as a team, we haven't done anything yet. We're 6 0, we're not 12 0 yet."
Notre Dame and BYU kickoff at 3:30 Saturday at the Stadium. Countdown to Kickoff gets you started at 2:30 here on Channel 16.