Notre Dame Defensive Coordinator Bob Diaco didn't address Manti Te'o's mounting Heisman hype specifically, but the coach's description of the linebacker could double as a letter of recommendation to the Heisman Electorate.
"I would say that Manti is the finest football player in America, all positions, all teams in college, and that he's the best football player that I've personally coached,” Diaco said.
Diaco is just the latest to pour on the accolades after Te’o’s stellar start to the season.
Through four games, the All-American linebacker has amassed 38 tackles (two for losses), three interceptions and two fumble recoveries, all while dealing with immense personal strife stemming from the loss of his Grandmother and girlfriend before the Michigan State contest.
The stats are all well and good, but the helping to garner national attention is the fact that Notre Dame is 4-0 for the first time in years, due in large part to Te’o.
And the question everyone is asking: What makes him so good?
"Oh wow,” said Diaco when asked the question Wednesday. “We're going to be here a while.”
And as Diaco often does, he explained in terms of “tangible” and “intangible” traits.
“Tangibly, he's big like a big inside linebacker at 250-plus pounds, and strong like that in terms of knock-back ability, block destruction and knock-back tackling ability. But he moves like a small guy.”
But linebackers have been fast and strong before and they will be faster and stronger in the future. How Te’o has lifted a team at a time in which he’s most needed a lift can be most accurately explained by his intangible traits.
“Intangibly, (he's) bright, studies the game,” Diaco said. “Driven. He's a unique blend of being able to be kind and good and courteous, and warm, and friendly when he's not inside the gates or inside the stripe. And then when he's in there, he's an absolute warrior.
“Some warriors have to pretend they're a different way when they're not between the stripes, and some really good, kind, nurtured people have to pretend to be warriors when they're inside the stripes. He doesn't have to pretend in either arena. That's unique. I mean, I could just keep going on and on about what separates him from the rest.”
It’s clear already this football season that Te’o is in a league with few others, and if he has his way, through sheer will and might, he’ll separate Notre Dame from the rest as well.