His father said Te’o also works hard at his craft because he knows another talented athlete is working just as hard.
“He knows when he meets that person he’s going to have to be at the top of his game in order to compete with him,” he said.
Te’o has 362 career tackles and is on pace to finish third on Notre Dame’s all-time list behind Bob Crable (1978-81), who had 521, and Bob Golic (1975-78), who finished with 479.
Crable calls Te’o one of the best players he’s seen at Notre Dame.
“He has great speed. He knows where the football is,” he said. “Unfortunately for him, as far as the tackling record goes, the game has changed so much. I don’t know how anyone can get the tackles some of us old guys got just because they don’t run the ball as much.”
Kelly said what separates Te’o from other stars is he knows the names of every player on the team, even the walkons.
“He doesn’t call them, `Hey, 42, or 57.’ He knows each of those guys. … That’s pretty unique,” he said.
Student body President Brett Rocheleau said classmates love Te’o because he’s one of them. He takes part in campus events, he’s seen walking around carrying his backpack and talking with other students.
“Every story you hear about Manti is that he is genuinely nice guy. He’s one that is easy to talk to. He goes out of his way to carry on conversations,” he said.
The students showed their love for Te’o by chanting his name and wearing leis at the Michigan game and pep rally. Te’o jumped up in the crowd to celebrate the victory with them.
“I felt a sense of peace knowing that so many people cared about Manti instead of No. 5,” he said.
He was able to get home for his grandmother’s funeral during the bye week and said he feels rejuvenated as the Irish prepare to play Miami (4-1) Saturday in Chicago.
“I’ve never felt so strong; spiritually strong,” he said. “I could never thank the student body and the fans around the world for their all love and all their prayers and support. I truly felt all of that, and it’s helped me to get past, help me get through these past three weeks and I’m truly grateful and I’m truly humbled.”
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