Notre Dame senior All-America linebacker Manti Te’o (Laie, Hawai’i/Punahou) is one of 30 Football Bowl Subdivision student-athletes to be selected as a finalist for the 2012 Senior CLASS Award® in collegiate football. The award honors student-athletes who excel both on and off the gridiron and has notable achievements in four areas of excellence - community, classroom, character and competition.
An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School ®, the Senior CLASS Award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities.
The candidate class will be narrowed to 10 finalists midway through the regular season, and those 10 names will be placed on the official ballot. Ballots will be distributed through a nationwide voting system to media, coaches and fans, who will select one candidate who best exemplify excellence in the four Cs of community, classroom, character and competition.
Te’o has been tabbed a candidate for the Bednarik (top defensive player), Nagurski (top defensive player), Lombardi and Butkus Awards, as well as highlights just about every preseason All-America squad. He ranks second in the FBS among active players in career tackles and fifth in tackles per game.
Te’o finished with a game-high 12 tackles in the victory at No. 10 Michigan State on Sept. 15. He also added a fumble recovery, tackle for loss and two pass breakups. Te’o has now led the Irish in stops on 22 different occasions in his career. The double-digit tackle game against the Spartans was the 20th of his career. He was named Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week following his effort.
Te’o has excelled in the classroom, as his grade-point average has been well above 3.0 his entire career at Notre Dame. In 2011, he was named a second-team Academic All-American, becoming the 56th selection in Notre Dame football history. Following the ‘11 season, Te’o was selected the football team’s recipient of the Rockne student-athlete of the year. He is on pace to graduate this December from Notre Dame, earning his degree in three and a half years.
Te’o has been a leader since birth. A member of the Boy Scouts as a child, Te’o earned Eagle Scout status after years of determination and effort. Te’o was taught lessons by his family early in life that he remembered and carried with him. He could be found during his summer vacation serving as avolunteer at the South Bend Center for the Homeless. Te’o interacted with local youths by playing games, reading books and being a positive role model in the lives of South Bend kids. Te’o is the true leader of the Irish defense yet is constantly deflecting praise to his teammates and coaches. Te’o routinely speaks of the great effort by the defensive linemen that allow him to clean up with tackles and how the coaches do a great job of putting him in position to succeed.
Te’o has been involved in a number of events in the local community. He has participated in the Irish Experience League that brings South Bend-areayouths to Notre Dame’s campus where they participate in athletic activities with Notre Dame student-athletes. In June of 2011, Te’o visited the local homeless shelter each day for two weeks and became an inspiration to a number of the child residents. He also helped prepare a Thanksgiving meal at the homeless shelter in 2011. Te’o is quite active in his local church and has made a number of friends at his parish.
A consensus preseason first-team All-American in 2012, Te’o has been an impact player for the Irish in each of his first three seasons. Named a second-team All-American by five media outlets in 2011, Te’o was also a finalist for the Lott Trophy and Butkus Award in his junior year. One of the highest regarded and most-decorated defensive recruits in Notre Dame history, Te’o has totaled 354 tackles, 29.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks, seven pass breakups, two forced fumbles two fumble recoveries and one interception in his career.
Te’o ranks sixth in career tackles at Notre Dame. He has played in all 41 games over his Notre Dame career, starting 39 total contests including 38 consecutive games.