It's certainly not the way he wanted to end his career, but Manti Te'o leaves Notre Dame as the most decorated player in college football history.
"I'm proud to have been a part of this team," Te'o said Monday night after his #1 ranked Notre Dame lost to Alabama in the BCS National Championship game. It was the first loss of the season for the Irish, which fall a win shy of the program's 12 national title and 1st since 1988.
"What doesn't kill you will make you stronger. The best thing about this experience is that it creates fire, it creates fuel for both the guys staying and the guys leaving. Everybody here tonight will be better for it."
Te'o has certainly earned the respect of his teammates.
"He was the leader this year," says co-captain Zach Martin. "He was our heart and soul."
The game means Te'o has played the last of his career with childhood friend Robby Toma.
"Not a lot of people can say they went this far with a friend," Toma explains. "I'm proud to say Manti is my brother. I'll miss playing with him and I love him."
Te'o ranks in the top five among defenders in Notre Dame history. He'll be a first round draft pick.