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College football: Heisman second to everything else for Te'o

Published: Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012 12:12 a.m. CDT
Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o waits for the snap during the second half of a 21-6 Irish victory over Boston College on Nov. 10 in Boston.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Award Week begins Monday. That day, Manti Te’o will be in Charlotte, N.C. On Tuesday, he will be in New York. On Wednesday, he will be in Houston. On Thursday, he will be in Orlando, Fla.

Then, on Friday, he may be back in New York. But even without a game to prepare for, at least for the next 6 weeks, Notre Dame’s decorated senior linebacker claims he hasn’t thought of what would bring him back to the Big Apple: The Heisman Trophy ceremony invite.

“My attention has just been on taking advantage of every day,” Te’o said Thursday, at a news conference to announce him as the winner of the ARA Sportsmanship Award. All I’ve been thinking about is the time I have left here at school with my peers, with my classmates.”

He likely will as of Monday night, when the Heisman finalists are announced. Te’o should garner enough votes to earn an invite to the ceremony, even if Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel appears to be a prohibitive favorite at this stage.

But that New York trip may be comment enough on Te’o, who would attempt to be the first pure defensive player in history to win the award after a 103-tackle, seven-interception year for the 12-0 Irish.

“First and foremost, for me, that would be a great honor for my team,” Te’o said. “Without my team, I woudn’t be a Heisman candidate. If we weren’t 12-0, I wouldn’t be a Heisman candidate. Without my team and their help, I wouldn’t be going to New York.

“If I were to win and represent my school and my team and my family, and defensive players in general, it would defintiely be a great step for us. If it doesn’t happen, then whoever does win it is truly deserving of the award. Whatever happens is going to be good.”

It’s too much a stretch to say that Manziel would have Te’o’s vote, but the Irish linebacker has seen the redshirt freshman known as “Johnny Football” play and he has come away impressed.

“Dynamic player,” Te’o said. “Really, really good playmaker. He always tends to make something out of nothing. That’s definitely somebody that’s of Heisman material. I’m a real big fan.”

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