After leading the Irish to their best season in over 20 years, linebacker Manti Te’o is taking home some hardware. The linebacker and Heisman finalist has been named the Walter Camp Player of the Year.
Te’o has been named to the honor after being voted the best player by college coaches and directors. By winning the award, the Flyin’ Hawaiian joins the likes of Bo Jackson, Andrew Luck, Barry Sanders, Tim Brown and Rickey Williams. Te’o also becomes the first defensive player to win the award since Charles Woodson won the Walter Camp back in 1997.
The story of Manti Te’o is the stuff college football lives off of. He lost both his mother and girlfriend to tragic deaths this year, losing both of them in the span of a day. His girlfriend lost her battle with Leukemia on September 11th, the same day his grandmother also passed away. Amazingly, Te’o didn’t miss a game this season, including the game following the deaths of his two loved ones.
It was losing the ones he loved that put life into perspective for Te’o and pushed him to have the stellar season he’s had at Notre Dame.
I really wanted to see her [girlfriend Lennay Kekua].” Te’o said at her funeral. “But I knew that she made me promise, she said, ‘Babe, if anything happens to me, you promise that you’ll still stay over there and that you’ll play and that you’ll honor me through the way you play, and know that I would rather have you there.’ And just make sure that all she wanted was some white roses. White is her favorite color. So she just wanted some white roses and that’s all she asked for. So I sent her roses and sent her two picks along with that, so that was good.”
This award is just one of the many accomplishments in life for Te’o but it’s clear from watching this young man this season, that sometimes football and life intersect inlays we never thought we’d see and the lessons learned from that extend beyond hitting running backs.