There is no doubt that Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Manti Te’o is the top linebacker in the nation and arguable the best all-around defender and Te’o now has the hardware to show for his incredible on-field performance during his senior campaign.
Te’o has been named the winner of the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker, as well as the Nagurski Award for being named the top defensive player in college football. Te’o became the first Notre Dame player to win the Nagurski Award in the school’s history.
“It’s something that you dream of when you’re a little kid,” Te’o said, per ESPN.com. “You never think it could happen, then it finally hits you in the face and it’s a dream come true.”
If earning the Butkus Award and Nagurski Award was not good enough for Te’o, he was also named a finalist for the 2012 Heisman Trophy along with Texas A&M freshman sensation Johnny Manziel and Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein.
Were Te’o to be named the Heisman Trophy winner, he would become the first defensive player to take home the award since Charles Woodson earned the award in 1997 with the Michigan Wolverines. He would become the first pure defender to ever earn the award.
While the individual recognition is nice for any player, Te’o remains focused on the team and their goal — to win a national championship.
“Hey, all these awards are great, but football is a team sport,” he said. “If you ask people who the Butkus Award or the Bednarik Award winners are, or even the Heisman Trophy winner some years, they probably don’t remember them. But they remember who won the national championship. They remember that. That’s the trophy everybody wants.”
Te’o will have the chance to finish his college career in the biggest game in college football when he tries to lead the Fighting Irish to a national title over defending champs Alabama on January 7th in Miami.