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Posted on Fri. Jan. 04, 2013 - 12:01 am EDT

Te’o back on familiar turf again

After whirlwind month of awards, Irish star hits field

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o didn’t enjoy much downtime after the No. 1 Irish (12-0) finished their first perfect season since 1988 and earned a spot opposite No. 2 Alabama (12-1) in Monday’s BCS championship game.

After Notre Dame closed the regular season with a 22-13 win at USC, Te’o embarked on a five-city tour over seven days and collected a record seven major postseason awards.

Once it was over, though, Te’o said he had no problem going back to work.

“It’s been easy. When you’re in the middle of football, nothing else matters,” Te’o said. “Football is my sanctuary where I feel most at home, and when I’m with my guys, when I’m with my coach, that’s my comfort zone, and that’s where I want to be.

“I was just glad to finally get back from that week of just traveling and just to spend the rest of my time with my guys.”

Te’o’s journey started in Charlotte, N.C., where he won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy as the nation’s top defensive player. He then went to New York as a member of the National Football Foundation’s scholar-athlete team. Then he was in Houston to collect the Lombardi Award as the nation’s top lineman or linebacker.

Te’o then head to Orlando where he collected the Chuck Bednarik Award as defensive player of the year; the Maxwell Award as player of the year; and the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award. He then returned to New York to finish second for the Heisman Trophy, and he finished his journey by winning the Lott IMPACT Award in California.

Te’o was also named the Butkus Award winner as the nation’s top linebacker during that week, but he has not slowed down after being so rewarded.

“Manti has actually practiced harder the last week since the award circuit, practiced harder than he has all year long,” defensive coordinator Bob Diaco said. “He has raised his game even just as early as last week and leading up to the travel here to South Florida.”

tkrausz@jg.net


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