Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o won the Bronko Nagurski Award for the nation’s top college defensive player Monday night at Charlotte’s Westin Hotel.As one of five finalists, Te’o was in good company with South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones, Alabama defensive back Dee Milliner and Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner. The Football Writers Association of America voted on the award, which was presented by the Charlotte Touchdown Club.My husband and I graduated from Notre Dame in 1989 and we bleed blue and gold. As seniors, we cheered our football team on to a 12-0 season under Coach Lou Holtz and traveled to the Fiesta Bowl to watch our team win the National Championship.Notre Dame is 12-0 again and will play Alabama in the National Championship in January.With Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly as the keynote speaker at the award dinner and Manti Te’o a finalist, the evening provided a way for local Notre Dame fans like myself to revel in the team’s magical season.“It is an honor for me to be the head football coach of the University of Notre Dame and get an opportunity to bring our football team back to the national landscape of college football,” Kelly said.“These five finalists are more than a highlight reel. Each one of them represents greatness at their university because they’re not here tonight just because of stats, they’re here because they’re great teammates.”He spoke about the commitment it takes to be a great player, noting how much athletes give up.“They can’t do what other students do on a day to day basis. They don’t get a chance to be 18, 19, 20 and 21,” Kelly said.He said the team is really built in the locker room. The leaders raise the level of the players around them with camaraderie, trust, leadership and character.Player development is crucial for Kelly.“If we’re going to ask them to play for us on Saturdays, then we’ve got to give something back to them ... It’s not a one way street,” he said.Kelly said coaches and teachers owe student athletes intellectual, spiritual, social, physical and skill development.Te’o spoke about the heart of his team.“It wasn’t necessarily the team with the most talent, but a team that plays for the guy next to him. When I’m out there I have 10 other guys that will give everything for me and I’ll do the same for them and likewise on offense,” Te’o said.When accepting the Nagurski Award he thanked his team, wishing he could have his “80 plus brothers” with him, his coaches and his parents.Earlier in the day, Te’o was notified that he had won the Butkus Award for the best linebacker in college football. He was also named one of three finalists for the Heisman Trophy.When asked about his busy awards week, he sheepishly explained that after Charlotte, he’s headed to New York, Houston, Orlando, back to New York, California and then to South Bend to study for finals.I told Te’o that my husband and I were seniors when Notre Dame last won a National Championship.“I hope to win one as a senior too,” Te’o said.
Friday, Dec. 07, 2012
A night for the Irish to celebrate
Notre Dame fans enjoy Nagurski Award
Nagurski Award Winner Manti Te'o from the University of Notre Dame and columnist Karin Janick. KARIN JANICK
Brian Kelly, head football coach at Notre Dame, gave the keynote address at the Bronko Nagurski Award ceremony in Charlotte. KARIN JANICK