Dec. 26, 2009
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - University of Notre Dame freshman linebacker Manti Te'o has decided he will return to campus for the spring semester and delay his mission trip for at least one year and possibly until later in his life. Te'o will continue at Notre Dame during his sophomore year and will be a member of the Irish football team in 2010.
Te'o ranked fourth on the team in 2009 with 63 tackles including 5.5 tackles for loss, one sack and added one pass breakup. He played in all 12 games and started nine contests.
The 63 tackles recorded by Te'o were the most by a Notre Dame freshman since 1975 and the third most all time by an Irish freshman (Bob Golic, 82 tackles in 1975; Ross Browner, 68 tackles in 1973).
Te'o became a full-time starter for Notre Dame in the fifth game of the season against Washington and he ranked second on the Irish with 57 tackles over the final eight games (Safety Kyle McCarthy had 64 tackles in that stretch). Te'o recorded 10 tackles against both Washington and Stanford and totaled nine tackles with 2.5 tackles for loss and one pass breakup against Boston College.
A native of Laie, Hawaii, Te'o is enrolled in Notre Dame's First Year of Studies program.
The following are quotes from Manti Te'o collected in a phone conversation by Notre Dame director of football media relations Brian Hardin:
What have you decided to do in regards to your mission?
"My decision is to come back to Notre Dame and prepare for the next football season."
Now is this just for next season? When will you take your mission?
"I'm not sure just yet. I'm not sure if I'm going to take it after next year or later on in life."
Who all did you consult with on this decision?
How tough was this decision for you?
"I mainly talked to my parents and sometimes some of my family members to get their input. They were all quite supportive. I also talked to my bishop up in South Bend.
"This was probably the biggest decision that I've had to face in my entire life. I knew the impact of my decision could have a positive influence on those who follow me and those who watch what I do. I always want to have a positive influence on them. I just thought that I was sent to Notre Dame for a purpose and that is a purpose I have to devote to."
What were some of the factors that led you to the decision to return?
"I think it's the connections I have been able to make with people and the ability I have to meet people and influence them for good. I think that is a big factor in it. The coaching change didn't have a factor. Football wasn't a factor. It was strictly a spiritual thing for me."
When did you come to the decision to return to Notre Dame?
"It's something that has been pulling at me for some time now. Ever since the season started I have been thinking about it and praying about it and really trying to figure out what I would do. It's been a hard decision and we finalized our decision when I got back here (to Hawaii) with my family."
Have you had a chance to talk to Coach Kelly about your mission?
"Not about the mission. I got to talk to him on two occasions and he's a really good guy. We talked about football and talked about life in general. I respect him and have trust in him and I think he'll do a great job leading our team."