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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 29, 2012
THE MODERATOR: Welcome, everyone. I'm Pam Schur of the Awards and Recognition Association. Thank you for joining us today to celebrate sportsmanship and our eighth‑annual Sportsmanship Award. We're here today to honor one of the college football greats for his actions both on and off the field. This player has shown tremendous, humble and profound displays of sportsmanship throughout his time here.
Our Association is proud to have established the only annual award that turns the spotlight on good character and on an individual who can help inspire young athletes to achieve the highest levels of sportsmanship and athleticism.
On behalf of the 2,600 members of our Association, I would like to thank our panel of judges for their thoughtful consideration of each candidate and for their time and effort in selecting our 2012 recipient.
To that end I'd like to present the awards and recognition Association president, Lori Warren.
LORI WARREN: Thank you, Pam. I'm proud to be here today to announce our 2012 recipient of the Awards and Recognition Association's Sportsmanship Award. This student‑athlete is indeed one of Notre Dame's finest, and he has shown us time and again what it means to be a humble, talented, respectful and sportsmanlike player on and off the field. His nomination and record blew us away, and it is saying a lot because of the outstanding candidates we had to choose from this year.
I'm very pleased that the Awards and Recognition Association went beyond talking about sportsmanship and came up with a way to help recognize role models for qualities that are so needed in today's society. I cannot think of a more deserving football player to acknowledge than University of Notre Dame's Manti Te'o. I know you're not surprised to hear that Te'o was a standout even in this extremely deep pool of athletes, with a positive approach to the game and life. His nomination form jumped out at all of us. His playing record is award‑winning and prestigious, but it was his humble altruistic behavior off the field that caught our attention. He's an unselfish player and person willing to go above and beyond to give back to those less fortunate than him and set a good example for our youth.
It is my distinct pleasure to present the 2012 Awards and Recognition Association's Sportsmanship Award to Manti Te'o.
Before we hear from Manti, Notre Dame's athletic director Jack Swarbrick would like to share a few words with us.
JACK SWARBRICK: Thank you, Pam and Lori. You have chosen well. It is hard to imagine a more‑deserving candidate for an award that carries the characteristics of this one than Manti.
You know, sports brands, preeminent sports brands, are rare. Even rarer is an athlete that perfectly captures the essence of a sports program. I can think of very few, maybe a Peyton Manning in Indianapolis, maybe a Derek Jeter in New York, maybe a Bill Bradley at Princeton. But in the history of sports, it's rare. We are incredibly privileged at the University of Notre Dame during the past four years, culminating in this year, to have a student‑athlete who so perfectly captures the values of the institution.
Athletically, he has never compromised on the pursuit of excellence, a hallmark of this University in all it does. He has embraced fully the obligation of everyone at Notre Dame to be a member of the community, not just the football community but the larger community of the University, and environment in which we live.
And finally, he has demonstrated a commitment to service, service of others, which is an absolute hallmark of the University of Notre Dame. He has served the broader community and has worked with children and those who are less fortunate. He has served the Notre Dame community through his direct involvement in things outside the football program, and very importantly for us, as manifest in the success of this year, he has served the football program through his leadership.
Manti has all of the talents of a rare leader. He has an awareness of when leadership is needed; he has an understanding of when to act; and he acts with a compassion and a thoroughness which gets results.
So on behalf of the University of Notre Dame, I am incredibly honored to be able to join in congratulating Manti on this well‑deserved honor.
MANTI TE'O: First of all, I'd like to thank ARA for this tremendous honor, not only for myself but on behalf of my family. I'm a direct result of the young man that my parents raised and the values that they instilled in me. I'd like to thank my father for this opportunity that I have to be in this spotlight and to represent him and my family in this wonderful institution. I'd like to thank my coaches for the countless hours that they sacrifice with their families to be here with young men like me to not only teach us about the game of football but about life and about being a man. I'd like to thank my teammates. I couldn't picture being on a better team, not necessarily only talent‑wise but just the love we all share with each other, and it's definitely shown itself this season with the success that we've experienced so far.
And I'd like to thank Mr.Swarbrick for bringing me here and for instilling the values of this University with all of us, not only on the football team but with the whole athletic department. It's definitely, for us young people who are here, it's definitely something that helps us to be better, better individuals and to grow as young men and young women, and just very happy and very honored to be recognized and to represent this school, this community and my family. So thank you.
Q. You've won obviously a lot of awards in your life, but to win a Sportsmanship Award, just talk about how much that means to you in terms of it not being just a football award but the things you do off the field, as well.
MANTI TE'O: Yeah, it definitely means a lot to me. I draw a comparison from this to my Eagle Scout award. It's nothing that has‑‑ it's not focused on football, my athletic ability. It's focused on the individual and who they are as a person. I think it honors, like I said before, the values that my parents instilled in me, and it just goes to show that I was definitely born of goodly parents and parents that took the time to show me what I should do and show me by example the person I should become. I hope I've made them proud, and this award has definitely shown me that to a certain extent I did listen to them when I was younger.
Q. You've talked about this before, and you've touched on it today a little bit, just how much Notre Dame means to you and how much they've kind of helped you grow, as well, to get to this point.
MANTI TE'O: I love Notre Dame. I love this place. This place is definitely special. It's not a school. This place is not a school; it's a family; it's a place that you'll always be connected with and welcomed for the rest of your life, and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else, and I can't picture myself anywhere else but here under the dome and with the team, with my teammates, and just experiencing everything. I'm definitely going to miss this place and definitely grateful that I came here. It's been the best four years of my life.
Q. The regular season is over, you won all the games. The next one is six weeks away. How much have you allowed yourself to maybe think about being in New York next weekend.
MANTI TE'O: I think my attention has just been on taking advantage of every day. I think all I've been thinking about is the time I have left here at school with my peers, with my classmates. I'll be gone all next week, so today was my last week of school. Yeah, today‑‑ I don't know, it was just hard for me, to know that it's coming to an end, a beautiful end. I haven't been really thinking about going to New York. I think I was just thinking about today and can't wait to go to the Kentucky game and cheer on my classmates as they take on Kentucky, just chilling with my friends, worrying about the little things, the little things is what matters most.
Q. Now that you don't have sort of the day‑to‑day prep for a game at the end of this week, how are you able to avoid Heisman thoughts, people coming to you, talking about it, because it's obviously on the doorstep here?
MANTI TE'O: Yeah, I think for me it's easy. I spend most of my time just relaxing, getting a lot of rest, just hanging out with my friends, just enjoying those times. My mind is not on those awards, it's just about‑‑ my mind is just about strengthening the relationships I have with my friends, with my coaches and with my family and just making sure that when I leave here, I'll have a lot of memories to look back on.
Q. Kind of in that same vein, you mentioned you're going to be away next week. What are you going to do in terms of game preparation next week, just watch film, anything like that?
MANTI TE'O: Definitely‑‑ I don't know about film study. By then we'll know who we're going to play. Definitely I asked Coach Kelly to make sure that there's a gym in whatever place we stay, so when I come back I'm not a D‑lineman. That's definitely something that I will do myself to make sure that I stay in shape.
But as far as film study, I don't think I'll be able to do a lot of that on the trip, but definitely when I come back, it's something that, as everybody knows, is a priority for me.
Q. Kind of in that same vein, how intently are you going to watch the game Saturday between Alabama and Georgia?
MANTI TE'O: I think for me, it's‑‑ I don't know, it's kind of balanced. I'll enjoy it as a fan and as a future opponent, just watching them and how they work and try to look at tendencies in that game. But just my main thing is finding out who we're going to play and just getting kind of a sneak peek on what to look forward to.
Q. How do you handle a six‑week layoff, especially when you're doing all this traveling. How do you as an individual and as a team stay sharp for six weeks? You've never had to wait this long for a game before.
MANTI TE'O: Yeah, I think for us the main thing is get healthy. That's the first priority to everybody is get healthy, get rest, and at the same time to continue to stay active. Even though we're off, we're still lifting, we're still running, we're still staying in shape. We don't have to be out there banging heads in order to keep our edges sharp. Our edges are sharp, and we're going to continue to work out and run, and Coach Kelly has just a perfect plan for us, and it's worked, and we're going to follow it.
Q. I'm sure that all of next week in Florida and then in New York probably, more interviews‑‑ you've been sitting in front of us all season, you've been doing national interviews all season, for the school website all season. Was there ever a point where that was overwhelming to you this year or in the past?
MANTI TE'O: Yeah, it's definitely overwhelming. It gets overwhelming at times. But, yeah, I understand it comes with the territory, and I just try to represent this school and represent my family the best way I can every time I step in front of the camera.
And no matter how overwhelming it gets, to know that what I say has and can have a direct impact on somebody's life, and so I'm always‑‑ I always try to be aware of that and try to put all the other distractions aside.
Q. You're a finalist not only for the Heisman but for a lot of other awards, the Lott and just a whole list in all kinds of cities. Can you talk about the schedule? Do you know what all cities you'll be going to and when that starts and when that ends?
MANTI TE'O: No.
Q. You have no idea?
MANTI TE'O: No, not really. I just go where I'm told.
Q. And you mentioned that you've gone to your last day of school. What about finals? Did you have to reschedule finals to fit around all this?
MANTI TE'O: No, I'll be back in time for finals, so it works out. It works out pretty good.
Q. And will you study on these trips?
MANTI TE'O: Oh, yeah, definitely. I mean, I've got to, you know. I can't just show up. It's like a game; I can't just show up to a game.
Q. There was a TV crew here from Hawai'i spending some time your last game and so forth. I wondered if you could talk about what your experience here means to the people back home? Do you have a feel for that?
MANTI TE'O: I don't really have‑‑ I can't really say because I'm not home experiencing it. But my parents do tell me, and I just‑‑ for me, my main thing is to show the kids back home that we can step out of that bubble. Hawai'i is such a comfortable place to be, and you don't want to leave. For us kids who grew up there, it's definitely hard to leave. When you leave Hawai'i, it's far, and so for us to leave that nest is definitely something that's very difficult and something that kids are very afraid of, and I think not only myself but people like Robby and Kona and Marcus Mariota who's at Oregon and various Hawai'i athletes who are attending school here on the mainland, we're just an example to those kids of, hey, it's okay to leave, and Hawai'i is always going to be there. If your dream is to play Division I football outside of the University of Hawai'i, you can do it. We're doing it, so there's no reason why you can't.
Q. Shane Victorino came over to watch your last game. What's your family's relationship with him?
MANTI TE'O: He's just a real close friend of mine, and that was the first time that he got to meet my family. Everybody sees Shane as the World Series champ and just all that, but when you're sitting with Shane and just talking, he's just one of the boys. He's real cool, just real laid‑back. He provides a perspective for all of us who are aspiring to go to the pros, you know what I mean. He gives us his experiences and what to look out for and just always being there for me and for Robby and the rest of the kids from Hawai'i and just telling us‑‑ like how I'm an example to the little kids back home of how you can come here and you can do it, and he's my example of hey, I made it to the pros, you can do it, too.
Q. How did you meet him?
MANTI TE'O: Through one of our family friends, my uncle Keith, he's really close with him, and I met him through my uncle Keith.
Q. I got an email from a guy yesterday that is trying to convince his wife to let him name his soon to be born daughter Manti. Do you have any advice for this guy?
MANTI TE'O: Don't do that. Don't do that. (Laughter.)
Q. Looking back on this season, your personal success as well as the team's success so far, how do you look back on your decision last year to not go into the draft, and what kind of emotions do you have looking back on that decision?
MANTI TE'O: I'm very grateful. I think for anybody who's questioning if God lives, he lives, and I'm an example of that. For those who don't know if he answers your prayers, he does, because he answered mine. If he didn't answer prayers, I wouldn't be here. I wouldn't have came here. I definitely wouldn't have came back for my senior year. And I wouldn't have done a lot of things that I've done in the past. And because I prayed and because He does answer prayers, there's a reason why I'm standing before you guys today. Looking back on that decision to come back, it's the best decision I ever made. I walk out of here with not only experiences and memories with my team and just stories I can tell my children, but with a diploma from the University of Notre Dame, which carries a lot of weight around here. It's the best decision I ever made.
Q. You're graduating next month, right?
MANTI TE'O: Correct.
Q. Have you mapped out what happens after the championship game yet, what do you do?
MANTI TE'O: I haven't mapped out specifically, but I'll be going somewhere to train, I just don't know where, and prepare for the combine and for the pro day.
Q. You watched the game on Saturday; any rooting interest or anyone that you care to‑‑
MANTI TE'O: No, not really. Good luck to both teams and just excited to see who we play.
Q. With the Heisman, only one defensive player has won it in the past whatever years, and he had offensive plays and punt returns. What would it mean for a defense‑only player to win it?
MANTI TE'O: I think first and foremost, for me it would be a great honor for my team. Without my team, I wouldn't be a Heisman candidate. If we weren't 12‑and‑0, I wouldn't be a Heisman candidate. So without my team and their help, I wouldn't be going to New York.
But definitely if I were to win and representing my school and my team and my family and defensive players in general, it would definitely be a great step for all of us. If it doesn't happen, then whoever does win it is truly deserving of the award. Anything, whatever happens, it's going to be good.
Q. You saw Marqise Lee last week. Have you had a chance to see any of the other guys that will probably be up in New York like Collin Klein or Johnny Manziel?
MANTI TE'O: I've seen Johnny Manziel play. I unfortunately haven't seen Collin Klein play. But yeah, I've seen Johnny Manziel play.
Q. What are your thoughts about him?
MANTI TE'O: Dynamic player, really, really good playmaker. He always tends to make something out of nothing, and that's definitely somebody that's of Heisman material. I'm a real big fan. Definitely looking forward to meeting all of them in New York.
Q. I was curious, when you guys know who you're going to play on Saturday, do you look at it as playing against Alabama or Georgia the team, or does the SEC, knowing that they've won the last six national titles, does that factor in at all knowing that history, and do you think that the SEC, regardless of which team you play, deserves to be the favorite based on the league's reputation, or is that unfair to you guys?
MANTI TE'O: I think that we're all going to strap up our pads the same way, we're going to strap our chin straps the same way. We understand how dominant the SEC has been in the past, but it's definitely an opportunity that we're looking forward to, and we're going to prepare the same way we've been preparing all week and all year, and we're going to get after it. Whatever happens, we're just going to make sure that we're the most prepared we've ever been and we know that whoever we go up against is going to be one of the best teams we've faced all year long.
Q. It seems to be really a strong year for linebackers, and Alabama has C.J. Mosley and Georgia has Jarvis Jones, and I don't know if you have any history with those guys or know much about them or seen them play, but will you tell us whatever you do know?
MANTI TE'O: I know about Jarvis Jones. I've seen C.J. Mosley play in the National Championship last year, and both are incredible players, big playmakers for their teams, and they continue to make big plays. And I know that when they line up against each other this weekend, it's definitely going to be something that we're all going to look forward to watching. They're definitely big playmakers, and their teams are very lucky to have both of them. Along those lines, I know that you were looking seriously at USC, and Jarvis Jones was actually there at USC and he's spoken about that. Did you ever meet him, talk to him?
MANTI TE'O: No, I've never met Jarvis, at least not yet. But I've watched him play but not at USC. I've watched him play at Georgia. And yeah, I haven't met him.
Q. Wondering if when you decided to come back this season if you really expected to be in this position you're in with the Heisman hype and going to the BCS National Championship game, or did you even surprise yourself this year?
MANTI TE'O: Yeah, I definitely was surprised. It's something that I never‑‑ I don't think anybody could anticipate or expect. It's always a goal to be the best, to be the best you can be, and I just‑‑ I didn't think that it would be to this magnitude, and I'm just very grateful to be in this situation and to represent my team.
Q. I wonder if you could reflect just on how hard it is to be undefeated. You had those overtime games against Pittsburgh and Stanford and a lot of close games, then after that just the credit you guys should get for being one of two undefeated teams left.
MANTI TE'O: I think it's definitely hard to be undefeated. Our team has just done a great job, and our coaches have prepared us well for every task that we have faced this year, and the final task that we'll face in a couple weeks.
We've definitely put in a lot of work, and we're going to continue to put in a lot of work so that we're prepared for the game.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports