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    Te'o To Return for Senior Year

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    28cdjf.jpg Chicago Tribune - As he began to contemplate dueling futures at Notre Dame and in the NFL, Manti Te'o was advised by his father to make a list of what was important to him. It would offer some sort of traction in the looming stay-or-go clamor.

    Ultimately, it brought Te'o back for his senior year.

    Te'o announced Sunday he will return to Notre Dame for 2012, instantly equipping the Irish to handle a buzz saw of a schedule next fall in the most impactful moment of the offseason.

    Te'o arrived Saturday for the Lott IMPACT TrophyCQ awards banquet in Newport Beach, Calif. He met with his parents, who flew in from Hawaii, and discussed the decision. On Sunday, Te'o finalized his choice and, surprisingly, announced it at the banquet.

    According to the Twitter feed of Fox Sports reporter Lisa Horne, Te'o said this: "I feel I'm not done at Notre Dame."

    "Just a month or two ago, I felt Manti was really valuing being a professional," Te'o's father, Brian, told the Tribune in a phone interview late Sunday. "I thought that was at the top of the list and he was going to do as much as he could to do his part at Notre Dame. I thought he was at the stage of moving on. Long story short, essentially, we had a really nice talk with him last night.

    "We had a long three hour talk with him about where he felt his priorities where. We were going to use his list of priorities to start canceling out the pros and cons from the list we created. In a nutshell, Manti told me and my wife that he felt he came to Notre Dame - and I'm going to reiterate exactly what he said three years ago - he was led there to do something. He just feels there are so many unfinished things left there."

    The Te'o camp preferred to have a general idea of a decision before the Irish's Dec. 29 Champs Sports Bowl appearance. The family gathered the requisite information about where Te'o might be selected - and Te'o asked for an underclassman evaluation from the NFL - and the results were unsurprising.

    Te'o is the No. 13 overall draft prospect according to ESPN analyst Mel Kiper, Jr., and the family's research had him slotted anywhere from the mid-to-late first round to the worst case of the second round. And, as a result of that, Brian Te'o advised his son to declare for the draft when Manti Te'o asked for his opinion Saturday.

    "One of inspiring things he shared with us was, what can he live with if decided to go pro?" Brian Te'o said. "Can he live with not having the memory of his senior season? Could I be satisfied with millions and live without the memory? Or can I live without the millions and have the memories?

    "He goes, 'I can do that. I can live with my career possible ending at Notre Dame.' If he leaves this life in general, he'll know he gave Notre Dame everything he had. He felt he didn't do that yet. He really hasn't given Notre Dame everything he's got."

    Indeed, this was not a foregone conclusion either way until recently. Te'o had planned for next year's off-campus housing with three teammates, a source said, but Brian Te'o said his son was still contemplating and praying on the decision for weeks.

    Then, by the time he met with his parents Saturday night, Te'o knew.

    "It was clear to me where his heart was," Brian Te'o said. "It wasn't a difficult decision. There was more difficulty in trying to explain to Mom and Dad what he decided. If there was struggle, it was more a distraction, he said. People were telling him you should leave, you should stay -- he just felt conflicted. A lot of people he looked up to (were) telling him to go two different ways."

    Notre Dame confirmed Te'o's return late Sunday but did not comment about the team leader in tackles (115), tackles-for-loss (13) and sacks (4.5) in 2011.

    On Sunday night, Te'o was set for a red-eye return flight. A final exam awaited Monday. But after unloading this weight, he probably slept easy anyway.

    "He wanted to be a senior," Brian Te'o said. "More than anything he wanted to walk around that stadium one last time, whether it was in pads or in crutches. He said he will walk and give his final goodbyes. He couldn't see himself declaring for NFL and not having that opportunity to say goodbye to Notre Dame.

    "From listening to him (Saturday) night, that boy truly loves Notre Dame. He truly loves Notre Dame, despite all the shenanigans that may have happened in this past season, and some of that pointed directly to him -- it didn't matter to him. I was very proud at him for that."

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