On Monday afternoon, Manti Te’o was honored as the nation’s top linebacker in being named the winner of the highly coveted Butkus Award.
Te’o is also up for the Heisman Trophy, awarded annually to the nation’s best player at any position.
On the year, Te’o racked up 103 tackles, breaking the 100-tackle plateau for the third consecutive season. Statistically speaking, there were precisely 55 defenders who piled up a greater tackles count than did Te’o.
However, Te’o did far more to help his team than simply bring down running backs heading straight at him.
The native Hawaiian collected seven interceptions on the year, third-most in the entire country and a Notre Dame linebackers record.
Te’o's most important contributions, however, cannot be measured statistically.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are 12-0 and still alive in their quest for their first national championship since 1988. The Irish face the defending BCS National Champions, the Alabama Crimson Tide, but would not be doing so had it not been for the presence of Manti Te’o in the middle of absolutely everything on the football field. The young man turned down millions in staying for an extra year of school, despite the fact that he was a surefire first-round NFL draft pick.
Te’o has captained the Golden Domers’ defense, ranked No. 1 in the nation in giving up a paltry 10.3 points per game, despite getting virtually no help from the offense for large chunks of the season and despite suffering dual tragedies in the same week.
After losing his grandmother to natural causes on a Tuesday, his girlfriend passed away on Wednesday after suffering from leukemia.
That Saturday, Te’o led the team out onto the field against Michigan State and collected 12 tackles in holding the Spartans to three points. The Irish’s 3-0 start at the time was the team’s best in 10 years.
Dick Butkus, the NFL Hall of Famer for whom the Award has been named, expressed his notion as to what the Butkus Award should mean to the recipient.
“When a player receives the Butkus Award he will know two things. First, he is recognized as the best of the best linebackers in America. Second, and in the long run most important, he will understand that this recognition brings a responsibility to serve others by giving back.”
The win streak has obviously yet to come to an end, thanks in no small part to the man who so perfectly embodies what the Butkus Award strives to be all about: Talent, resiliency and integrity.
Source: The Butkus Award
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