Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Manti Te'o takes a victory lap as Notre Dame's fifth horseman

The linebacker picks up seven major awards around the country in an outstanding though emotion-filled season. Although the Heisman eluded him, Te'o is arguably the best player in the game this year.

Manti Te'o is the heart and soul of unbeaten Notre Dame's defense. (Winslow Townson / AP / November 12, 2012)

By Bill Dwyre

December 10, 2012, 8:10 p.m.

If you were paying attention this college football season, you saw that Notre Dame acquired a fifth horseman.

It wasn't the 1924 Army game. Nor was Grantland Rice around to write it; or Harry Stuhldreher, Jim Crowley, Don Miller or Elmer Layden alive to see it, or approve the addition to their lore.

It was a linebacker named Manti Te'o, who performed on a level that made him, arguably, the best player in the game this season. Last week, that argument received validation during the annual postseason awards week. Te'o was a candidate for eight major awards. He won seven of them.

When he arrived at the Pacific Club in Newport Beach on Sunday night as a nominee at the Lott Impact Awards dinner, he was exhausted and exhilarated. His 8,500-mile victory lap was about to end with one more win.

He had been nominated twice previously for the award, named for former USC star defensive back Ronnie Lott and designed to honor the defensive player making the most impact. This year's announcement was about as shocking as Fighting Irish football fans wearing green.

It was Te'o's seventh trophy. No other player had won more than five. The only award he was up for that he didn't win was the Heisman, which went to Texas A&M freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel, further labeling the Heisman, the sport's top postseason honor, as a celebration of achievement for those who play offense.

Sunday night, Te'o said he had made a friend in Manziel and praised the Heisman experience. But his competitive edge remained.

"When I heard his name announced," Te'o said, "I felt that burn you get, that somebody else has won. I take it as motivation to get better."

He has one remaining game in his college career. That is Jan. 7 in Miami, when No. 1 Notre Dame takes on No. 2 Alabama in the Bowl Championship Series title game. Any improvement will merely build on superb numbers, such as 103 tackles, two fumble recoveries and seven interceptions.

The Lott Awards, finale of a long week, might have been one to miss, even with the likelihood of winning. But Te'o is not the no-show type, especially for this event.

"I made a lot of friends here the last two years," he said. "This was the one I was looking forward to most. Especially after last year."

It was during his speech at that 2011 dinner, as one of the nominees, that Te'o, a likely high NFL draft choice, announced he would come back for his senior season. That caught many people, including Irish Coach Brian Kelly, by surprise. Suddenly, the Lott dinner was a news event. Sunday night, when Te'o accepted the Lott trophy, the memory made him emotional.

"This event, I hold dear," he said. "It was here I made maybe the best decision of my life."

His father, Brian, articulated that decision. "Manti chose a road less taken," he said.

The 2012 season was a Manti Te'o story book, although not all of the chapters were positive. On Sept. 12, within hours, he was given news that his grandmother in Hawaii and his girlfriend at Stanford had died, the latter after a battle with cancer.

He said girlfriend Lennay Kekau "made me promise, when it happened, that I would stay and play," Te'o said Sunday night.

Stay and play he did. He was the heart and soul of a team that needed every inch of every organ to get to 12-0. That included stunning goal-line stands and dozens of pressure-packed, inspirational moments. In the middle of each was Te'o.

That led to perhaps his toughest physical test of the season.

Monday, Dec. 3, Te'o and a Notre Dame contingent left South Bend, Ind., at 5:45 a.m. They flew to Charlotte, N.C., to receive the Nagurski Award, for defensive player of the year. Tuesday, it was off to New York City for the National Football Foundation Dinner, where Te'o received an $18,000 grant for postgraduate study, a scholarship endowed by the NFL.

Early Wednesday, it was off to Houston to collect the Lombardi Award for the nation's best lineman or linebacker. Then Thursday, on to Orlando, Fla., where an ESPN-sponsored show brought him the Walter Camp player-of-the-year award, the Bednarik defensive-player-of-the-year award and the Maxwell player-of-the-year trophy.

Friday, it was back to New York for the Heisman and two days of festivities; Sunday morning on to Los Angeles for the Lott Award.

He has also won the Butkus Award for top linebacker. The usual procedure for that is a surprise ceremony on the player's campus. Te'o, of course, was never on campus last week, so that trophy will come to South Bend on Monday.

Sunday night, Te'o took a red-eye flight to Chicago and drove on to South Bend. The victory tour had ended and final exams awaited. He has a 3.5 grade-point average in graphic design and will graduate in 31/2 years, although he will stay around Notre Dame this spring so he can walk in May with his graduating class.

His coach, Kelly, was along for the ride this week.

"I wanted to share this, to chase around with him," Kelly said. "The neat thing is that he is still a college kid. Nothing slick or hip about him. No sound bites.

"I also knew I'll never see another kid like this."

Morning tipoff: Siva’s dimes Posted on November 21, 2012 by C. L. Brown

Peyton Siva is off to the hottest start that you probably didn’t notice. U of L’s senior point guard has 27 assists through three games – which is his highest three-game total of his career. That includes twice tying his career high of 10 in a game against Manhattan and Miami (Ohio).

(As a freshman his highest total was 11 vs. Western Carolina 4, Oral Roberts 3 and Western Kentucky 4.

As a sophomore: 23 twice vs. DePaul 10, @Notre Dame 7, Syracuse 6; Marquette 9, Notre Dame 7, UConn 7.

As a junior: 26 vs. IUPUI 8, Fairleigh Dickinson 9, Memphis 9.)

More than anything else, what it says to me is that Siva has been playing within himself. Unlike the beginning to last season, he doesn’t feel like winning all rests on his shoulders. Through these first three games he’s taken just 16 shots – compared to 27 over his first three games last season.

If he can get 23 assists in three days of the Battle 4 Atlantis he’ll move past Keith Williams and DeJuan Wheat into fourth place on the school’s career assists list.

It’s doubtful Siva can surpass LaBradford Smith’s record of 713 career assists. (Siva currently sits at 476.) But he can make a serious run at the single season record of 226 and also held by Smith the 1989-90 season. Siva’s total of 211 assists from last season is second on the single-season list.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Hawaii’s Manti Teo Sets All Kinds of Records

09 Dec 2012 - 9:38 am

Senior Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o finished second in the running for the 78th annual Heisman trophy on Saturday.

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel took home the award, making him the first freshman to ever win the trophy.

In his second place finish, Te’o made plenty of history. He is the first Hawai’i-born athlete to be a finalist for the award, as well as the highest finishing solely defensive player in Heisman history.

The La’ie native still holds the record for college football postseason awards with six, one more than Charles Woodson’s previous record of five.

The Punahou graduate finished his regular season with 103 tackles and seven interceptions, which marks a school linebacker record. His 10 total turnovers created ties him for first in the nation.

Manti is the leader of the undefeated Fighting Irish, who’s suffocating defense is first in the nation in points allowed.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie released the following statement to express Hawaii’s pride in Te’o:

“I called Manti’s father, Brian, and asked him to pass on congratulations from the people of Hawaii to Manti and his mother. Building on six national accolades earned earlier this week, Manti also earned the most points ever by a purely defensive player in Heisman history,” Abercromie said. “Manti represents not only his strong family values but Hawaii values as well. He represents a standard for others to achieve. We are all very proud of his accomplishments.”

Top-Ranked Notre Dame will take on Alabama in the BCS National Championship on Jan. 7 in Miami, Fla.

Manti Te’o has become a household name. On Saturday, hundreds cheered him on as the first Heisman finalist to represent Hawaii.

A parade of cars started at Kualoa Beach Park, making their way up to Manti Teo’s hometown.

Fans cheered along the route and gathered at Laie Community Park.

“You’re standing on hallowed grounds. This place that you’re standing at, this is where the stars and athletes are made from,” Hawaii Sports Hall of Famer Junior Ah You said.

From keiki to kupuna, hundreds came out, brought their favorite dish, and showed their support.

“It’s definitely a humbling experience to see everyone show up just to support our brother and all that he’s done,” Brieanne Te’o said, Manti’s sister.

Everyone eagerly awaited the announcement of the Heisman trophy winner.

“He has a very Cinderella story. We’ve all heard about his girlfriend and his grandmother passing away the same day,” Ah You said. “He’s a great leader, great kid, perfect candidate for this kind of award.”

And although the announcement was not the outcome everyone was hoping for, it didn’t take away from his many accomplishments throughout his football career, and the excitement supporters have for what lies ahead for this rising star.

“He’s not just a defensive player, he’s the defensive player,” Ah You said.

And his success may be measured best by his leadership, determination, and humility on and off the field.

“Our players look up to him. He’s been an inspiration to everyone here, not just to our players, but the whole state,” Kahuku High School head football coach Reggie Torres said.

“He’s a very humble humble kid, we couldn’t have picked a better representative for the state of Hawaii, for the South Pacific than Manti Te’o,” Ah You said.

“We’re just so proud of him. All I’m thinking about is whether he’ll be home for Christmas,” Brieanne Te’o said.

Te’o has one more game left in college career — the national championship against Alabama.

Colts center carving his own legacy

By MIKE BEAS mbeas@dailyjournal.net
Daily Journal sports writer
First Posted: November 26, 2012 - 11:42 pm
Last Updated: November 26, 2012 - 11:44 pm

Indianapolis Colts center Samson Satele blocks for quarterback Andrew Luck, left, during the Colts' 20-13 victory against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. PHOTO BY SCOTT ROBERSON

INDIANAPOLIS — In the moments following the Indianapolis Colts’ upset of Green Bay in October, Samson Satele went looking for the player he idolizes.

It’s what centers do.

Just as quarterbacks greet opposing signal-callers and receivers seek out other receivers in order to shake hands, bump fists or briefly embrace, oft-overlooked snappers of the football have their own fraternity.

After all, who understands the many complexities associated with what appears to be the simplest of game-day procedures better than another center?

Name: Samson Satele

Age: 28

Job: Indianapolis Colts center

Jersey number: 64

Height: 6-3

Weight: 299

Born: Kailua, Hawaii

High school: Kailua High School, 2002

College: University of Hawaii, 2007

Drafted: By the Miami Dolphins in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft

Did you know: Satele majored in sociology in college ... was named first team All-Western Athletic Conference following his junior and senior seasons ... was Hawaii’s starting center in 2006 when record-setting QB Colt Brennan led the team to an 11-3 record.

The exchange between Satele and another bearded warrior, the Packers’ Jeff Saturday, was cordial but brief. And whether anyone realized it at the time, the meeting symbolized the closest thing to a passing of the torch within the confines of the NFL.

Where Satele is, Saturday was. From 1999-2011, with two Super Bowl appearances and five trips to the Pro Bowl, Saturday achieved icon status within the franchise. He’s a surefire Ring of Honor recipient after he retires and might even join the short list of centers in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“The man is a legend. I’ve watched a lot of film of him. Jeff is a craftsman, a technician,” said the 6-foot-3, 299-pound Satele, who signed with the Colts in March exactly two days before Saturday inked a two-year deal with Green Bay.

“I just try to work my craft. I watch a lot of tape of Jeff and Nick Hardwick of San Diego,” Satele said. “Nick is a tough guy who puts himself in the right spot all of the time.”

Satele refers to Hardwick, an Indianapolis native who graduated from Lawrence North High School and Purdue University, as one of his closest friends. Hardwick, 31, who at one point played in the Center Grove Bantam League, has been to one Pro Bowl (2006), a plateau the ponytailed Satele continues to work toward.

Maybe this is his time. After two years with Miami and another three as part of the Oakland Raiders, Satele’s presence has been vital in the Colts’ 7-4 record. Statistical rankings aside — the team is fifth in the NFL in total offense (386.0 yards) and seventh in passing yardage (277.7) — Satele with 11 starts this season is instrumental in the development of rookie quarterback Andrew Luck.

Just as Saturday and Peyton Manning had a language all their own, both verbal and body, so do Satele and Luck.

Satele came to training camp at Anderson University in the summer having previously worked with Carson Palmer in Oakland and Chad Henne, Trent Green and Josh McCown in Miami. Satele had a five-year head start on Luck, which helped pave the way for immediate chemistry between the two.

“I told everyone the first day Andrew came into the huddle, ‘This kid is going to be good,’” Satele said. “He can read my mind. He’s a very smart kid. It’s just about being on the same page.”

As a native of Hawaii, Satele, who is of Samoan ancestry, would love nothing more than to fly home in late-January to play in the NFL Pro Bowl. If Luck is one of the AFC quarterbacks invited to retrieve his snaps, all the better.

Manti Te'o loses Heisman, gains "motivation"

 By Mark Lazerus on December 8, 2012 9:17 PM

About a half hour after Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel was named the winner of the 78th Heisman Trophy on Saturday night, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o no longer looked like the man at the end of a week of unceasing travel, photo ops and media obligations.

He sounded happy. Relieved. And not just a little fired up.

"I just felt that burn," he said when asked what it felt like to hear someone else's name called. "I can't really describe it. I just felt that burn -- hey, gotta get better."

Te'o called it "motivation." Motivation for the 30 days that lay ahead, as top-ranked Notre Dame prepares to face No. 2 Alabama on Jan. 7 in the BCS national championship game. That's something on which Te'o can finally focus, when he lands in South Bend early Monday morning after taking the red-eye home from southern California, where he attended the Lott IMPACT award ceremony -- the last of eight trophies for which he was a finalist.

"It's motivation," Te'o said. "I always wanted to be the best. I just use that as motivation to be the best I can be. Obviously, I have a lot of work to do. I'm just excited to get back and get things cracking. ... Go back home, see all my brothers, get back into the groove of things. Get the pads back on, smack around some guys, study a lot of film. That's what I love about all this time, I have weeks and weeks to study film. Usually, I'll have about three days to study film, but now I've got three weeks to study film."

Some of Te'o's teammates -- including nose guard Louis Nix III, whom Te'o told a national TV audience would get his Heisman vote if he had one, and DaVaris Daniels -- took to Twitter to express their displeasure with the results. It was motivation for them, too.

"That's family, man," Te'o said. "That's what families are all about. And that's what our team is all about. ... They all just blew up my phone just now."

Te'o took some solace in the fact that he earned more points -- 1,706, including 321 first-place votes -- than any strictly defensive player ever had. And while Irish coach Brian Kelly had said that if Te'o didn't win the Heisman, it should just be recalibrated as an offensive award, Te'o disagreed that a defensive player can never win the award, pointing to the sheer volume of votes for him. And he laughingly apologized to the masses back home in Hawaii, who gathered for a huge watch party.

But more than anything, Te'o was eager -- excited and invigorated, even -- to get off the awards circuit, and get back to the grind.

"I did the best I could do, and I'm happy with that," Te'o said. "I wish I could have came first, obviously, but it gives me motivation and gives me fire to come back and get better. Obviously, what I did wasn't good enough. And I felt I could do better, and that's exactly what's going to happen."

Manti Te'o named College Football Sportsman of the Year

Notre Dame football fans hope that Irish linebacker and captain Manti Te'o will receive the biggest honor in college football next week.

Te'o is expected to be named a finalist for the Heisman Trophy on Monday, with the presentation the following Saturday in New York City.

Thursday, Te'o received another tremendous honor for his contributions away from the field--named the College Football Sportsman of the Year by the Awards and Recognition Association.

"I'm a direct result of the young man my parents raised and the values that they instilled in me," Te'o said Thursday. "I'm very happy and honored to be recognized and to represent this school, this community and my family."

Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick said the A.R.A. committee has chosen well.

"It's hard to imagine a more deserving candidate of an award that carries that characteristics of this one than Manti," Swarbrick said.

Te'o just wrapped up his final classes at Notre Dame. He graduates next month, earning his degree in just three and a half years. He's been heavily involved in the local community giving back to kids.

Swarbrick says Te'o embodies Notre Dame in a way very few athletes embody their team.

"Maybe a Peyton Manning in Indianapolis, maybe a Derek Jeter in New York, maybe a Bill Bradley at Princeton---but in the history of sports, it's rare," Swarbrick explained. "We have been very fortunate at Notre Dame in the last four year--culminating with this year--to have a student athlete that so perfectly captures the values of the institution."

Te'o continued to give credit to his parents.

"Parents that took the time to show me what I should do and show me by example, the person I should become," Manti explained. "I hope I made them proud."

"This award has shown me to a certain extent, I did listen to them when I was younger," Manti added with a laugh."

Jesse Sapolu: 4-Time Super Bowl Champ Reflects On How Samoan Culture Shaped His Career

Tuesday, December 4, 2012 1:32 am
Written by: Jesse Sapolu

Jesse Sapolu played 15 NFL seasons, winning four Super Bowls with the 49ers and earning two trips to the Pro Bowl. He did this despite a torn aortic heart valve, a dangerous condition that left him short of breath at times. In his new book, I Gave My Heart To San Francisco, Sapolu reveals this secret and recounts his journey to the NFL. Born in Samoa and raised in Hawaii, Sapolu has special appreciation for the success he achieved in pro football when he knows that so many others had the more typical American upbringing. In this excerpt, Sapolu writes about how his heritage helped define him as a football player and a person.

When I chose the University of Hawaii over schools from the Pac-10 and the Big Ten, one of the most important factors was the ability to play in front of my extended family.

In my mind I knew that when I chose my school, I would not only be playing for Farrington High School and my little town of Kalihi, but I would be representing the entire state every single time I strapped on my helmet. The pride of representing the people I grew up with far outweighed playing in the spotlight of the Pac-10 and Big Ten.

Being of Samoan ancestry and raised in Hawaii, I feel very blessed and honored to be part of two proud cultures. The two cultures are similar in that RESPECT and HUMILITY are of utmost importance. It is a high priority to represent yourself, your family, and your people with humility which in return earns you respect. I understood early with both cultures that it doesn't matter what your accomplishments might be, if you’re not humble, accomplishments mean absolutely nothing to them.

It is a thought that never left me. Whether it was winning a Super Bowl or simply stepping on a field for practice; everyone deserves to be treated with respect. Represent your family and your people in a way that would make them proud, win or lose.

My three sons (Luke, London and Roman) have heard me say many times during training sessions, "Be humble. You don't have to be loud to carry a big stick, just be loud when you buckle up your chinstrap." It is what Coach Tony Dungy calls "quiet strength."

Becoming a Samoan Chief

In 2004, I traveled to Samoa with an ESPN film crew for a documentary called "Polynesian Power." It featured NFL players, Pisa Tinoisamoa and Isaac Sopoaga; one grew up on the island of Tutuila and the other on the streets of Southern California and both made it to the NFL.

In completing the documentary, the film crew wanted the only living royalty, King Malietoa Tanumafili III, to give the two boys his blessing on film. When they called the Prime Minister's office about the documentary, they were advised the Samoan player that is the most wellknown in Samoa is Jesse Sapolu and that he's a
four-time Super Bowl ring holder.

The film crew called up Papaliitele Tihati Thompson in Honolulu to speak with me about traveling to Samoa with them. We already had planned a mini-vacation, but they offered to take Lisa (my wife and partner) and my youngest son, Roman, on a vacation to Samoa.

Following the filming of the two boys presenting their gifts to King Malietoa, Chief Seiuli, who speaks on behalf of the King, said a long speech about how proud Samoa is of me and my representation of our country. The Highness Malietoa Tanumafili III said that he would like to bestow the High Chief title of Seiuli on me for my work on the gridiron and also because my mother was from the village of Sapapalii which gives me legal claim to the chief title. I was so honored because I understood the noble respect of such a title. I sat there stunned for about a minute. Finally the Deputy Prime Minister Misa Telefoni looked over at me and asked, "So what do you think about the honor presented?” In the history of Samoa, no one has ever turned down a request or an honor from the Head of State and I wasn’t about to become the first.

The Seuili chief title was bestowed upon me. The chief titles come with a description (fa'alagiga). It is of utmost importance in a Samoan speech to know all the descriptions of the chiefs that are in the room or venue you're speaking at; failure to acknowledge properly will label the recipient as an incompetent speaker.

The description of my Chief Title Seiuli is the son of the Malietoa (alo ole Malietoa). Malietoa was the last living King of Samoa. The chief title given by King Malietoa is cherished by the Samoan people.

People protested in disagreement of giving the chief title to a person living abroad. The assumption was the chief title was given to me strictly because I had won four Super Bowls.

There was jealousy and backlash, but when they found out my mother lived in the village of Sapapalii, the village of King Malietoa and where the title Seiuli is rooted, the negativity stopped. The experience was interesting; a few I thought were friends were some of the protestors. I stayed quiet through the whole process, but it was a very painful learning experience.

Independent Samoa gave me a passport with the name Seiuli Manase Jesse Sapolu. In 1977, at 16 years of age, I became a naturalized citizen; becoming a naturalized citizen before the age of 18 allows changes to a given name. My mom decided to name me after my grandfather Manase and made Jesse my middle name.

I am still known as Jesse Sapolu, but because of 9/11 security measures Manase Jesse Sapolu is used a lot more today. My kids make fun of me because I went from Jesse Sapolu to Manase Jesse Sapolu and when I became a chief it became Seiuli Manase Jesse Sapolu. Being made fun of at home is just part of my everyday life with my children.

American Samoa has a population of nearly 60,000 and football is very popular. In the 1970s and 80s, a family would move from Pago Pago to the states before a child was of high school age to be discovered by colleges and universities, but now it is common place for a player to be recruited straight out of high school from the islands. For example, Paul Soliai of the Miami Dolphins came straight from the islands to the University of Utah.

Over fifty years ago Western Samoa became an independent country. There are many gifted athletic people waiting for NFL glory. I tell anyone who will listen, "It’s time for us to go over there and pick them up." Independent Samoa is a top 10 rugby team in the world almost every year, which is incredible considering the size of the country.
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In my culture, every family has a chief, with a separate chief's name; that family lives in a village, and every village has high chiefs. The protocol is similar to football in the respect shown to coaches. Coaches love Polynesian players because they are very respectful and usually quiet; nobody mouths off. That's just the way we grew up. Very seldom do we display anger.

Of course, that is unless we are challenged or disrespected. A lot of college coaches have a Polynesians on their staff for recruitment purposes. In the football clinics during the early 80s in Samoa only four or five kids out of 500 had shoes and that was on a good day. Now every kid wears Nike or Reebok; times have changed.

Polynesian Respect

Speaking of respect, we all lost a friend and brother recently. The late Junior Seau was a great player and man. We attended his funeral and one of his college teammates, Titus Tuiasosopo, shared a story about being in the weight room at USC with a restless Junior who was pacing back and forth. Titus asked him what was wrong; Junior said, "I just found out my girlfriend is pregnant. Can you come with me so I can tell my mom?" He replied, "I'm not going with you because your mom is going to beat you and just because I'm with you she's going to beat me, too."

Junior was afraid of his mother's reaction and punishment, but family and respect in the Polynesian community is highly honored. I think his mom did beat him and I bet he stood there and took it. You don't talk back or disrespect your parents in our culture. It is hard for today's generation because of the American influence, but still, talking back to your parents in the Samoan household is not allowed. Even if you do not agree with your elders, you have no choice but to accept it.

My childhood journey created my obsession and pushed me to overcome a secret heart condition. I was very proud of the fact that I never gave up throughout my career. The peaceful feeling instilled in me through my faith made me believe all things were possible; with all the dedication and sacrifice to make it to the Super Bowl, there was indeed some luck attached, but I believe it was my parents' constant prayer that has guided me throughout my life and NFL career.

-- Excerpted by permission from I Gave My Heart To San Francisco by Jesse Sapolu. Copyright (c) 2012 by Jesse Sapolu. Published by Celebrity Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Available for purchase at Celebrity Publishng and Amazon.

Notre Dame's Manti Te'o wins Lombardi Award

The Associated Press – Wed, Dec 5, 2012 11:15 PM EST

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o poses with the Lombardi Award after a ceremony, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, in Houston. Te'o, also a Heisman Trophy finalist, …
HOUSTON (AP) -- Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o won the Lombardi Award on Wednesday as college football's best lineman or linebacker.

Te'o, also a Heisman Trophy finalist, had 103 tackles and seven interceptions this year to help the undefeated Fighting Irish reach the BCS championship game against Alabama.

''It's the big dance,'' Te'o said about the title game. ''It is something that you dream about when you are little and for me to be in that game and playing against a real good Alabama team, it will be a perfect end to this chapter in my life.''

Te'o edged Alabama offensive lineman Barrett Jones, Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones and South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney for the award presented by the Rotary Club of Houston.

''You look at my highlights and you look at their highlights, I'm a big fan of their highlights,'' Te'o said.

''When you look at the company I am with - Jarvis, JC, Barrett - all guys that have proven themselves many, many times. For me to walk away with it, I am just very, very grateful. All of those guys are deserving of the trophy as well, so it is just a great experience and great opportunity for me.''

On Monday, Te'o won the Dick Butkus Award as the best linebacker, and the Bronko Nagurski Award as the nation's top defensive player.

Te'o will be in New York on Saturday for the Heisman Trophy presentation. The other finalists are Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and Kansas State's Collin Klein, both quarterbacks.

''It's special for me because I get to represent Notre Dame and represent my family on the national stage, and so, I am just very excited,'' Te'o said. ''I am very excited to get to know those other two guys.''

Notre Dame's Te'o wins Butkus Award

1:40 p.m. CST, December 3, 2012
Manti Te'o won the first-ever high school Butkus Award four years ago.

He can now add the college version to the mantel.

The Notre Dame linebacker was named winner of the Butkus Award on Monday, outdistancing Georgia's Jarvis Jones and Alabama's C.J. Mosley.

The award goes to the top linebacker in the nation and is selected by a panel of 51 coaches, recruiters, scouts and journalists coordinated by Pro Football Weekly. Te'o finished 2012 with 103 tackles and seven interceptions for the nation's No. 1 scoring defense.

"Manti Te’o embodies the toughness, intensity, competitiveness and on-field demeanor of a throwback performer like Dick Butkus himself," Pro Football Weekly publisher Hub Arkush said in a statement announcing the honor.

"Te’o was the first ever High School Butkus winner (2008), and he has lived up to all the expectations and positioned his team for a chance at the national championship. He has been an inspiration to his team and community, and has serves as a model citizen."

A bigger award could loom on his horizon Monday: Te'o is likely to be named a Heisman Trophy finalist later in the day.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Stephen Paea can thank No. 1 ‘fam’ for dream come true with Bears

BY ADAM L. JAHNS ajahns@suntimes.com November 3, 2012 12:04AM

Stephen Paea might have been a grocer in Tonga. Instead, his family’s sacrifices and support have allowed him to become the Bears’ starting nose tackle. | Jonathan Daniel~Getty Images

Stephen Paea’s mother, Ana, joyfully recalls one of her favorite memories of her son, the Bears’ starting nose tackle.

‘‘When they were 9 to 10 months old, I would give them bottles of milk,’’ Ana said. ‘‘His [twin] brother would only drink 3 or 4 ounces and start dozing off. Stephen would chug his eight ounces, sit up and throw it like a ball.
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‘‘Then he would look at William sleeping with his bottle and would just pull the bottle from William, lay down and start drinking. William would either fall asleep or get up and cry. Stephen would go on eating and never give it back.

‘‘He was such a big baby.’’

It’s a fond memory before what would become a roller-coaster ride for her family, Ana said.

Paea’s rise to being a key cog in the NFL’s best defense is a unique immigrant success story. He has gone from the island nation of Tonga to a high school in Kansas to Snow College in Utah to Oregon State and finally to the Bears.

Through it all, there has been his unrelenting desire to succeed for his family, who sacrificed and supported him immensely along his own self-described roller-coaster ride to the NFL.

‘‘[My success] wasn’t so much for myself, but for my family,’’ Paea said. ‘‘I’m grateful for everything.’’

The family man

Ana said her family lived comfortably in Tonga, and Stephen could have been a grocer like others, but she wanted a better life for her children. So they went after the American Dream when Paea was a teenager.

‘‘I tell my sons to never forget that we come from a very poor family and that compared to people in America, we are very poor,’’ she said. ‘‘We thank God every day for the blessings that we have.’’

Their path included a four-day bus ride to Kansas from California through the snow. Ana took out loans and worked as a caregiver in California while her sons went to high school in Kansas and Utah and Paea’s father, Ben, handled an importing business in Samoa.

The very close family was literally far apart.

‘‘They had to learn a lot in hard ways,’’ Ana said.

Football, though, brought them together. Where Paea went, his family followed him or financed him. Earnings are always shared among family members.

After failing to attract serious interest from Division I schools, Paea went to Snow College. Despite limited playing time, he caught Oregon State’s interest; it became the only school to offer him a scholarship. He earned an associate’s degree in just one year at Snow, fulfilling a family promise, and moved on to Oregon State, where he became a two-time conference defensive lineman of the year and a legitimate NFL prospect.

Injuries, including tearing his lateral meniscus in his knee at the 2011 Senior Bowl, never slowed him.

Now it’s Paea, whom the Bears took with the 53rd pick in 2011, who’s supporting his family.

‘‘It’s the same thing as football, where I’m part of 11 guys on the defense,’’ said Paea, who has a daughter, Leimana, with his wife and college sweetheart, Susannah. ‘‘I’ve got to do my job. Everybody’s got to do their job. For me to be a part of the family, I do my job, which is supplying for my family, and they do the job of supporting me. It plays both ways. I have nothing to complain about. I love my family to death.”

The rising player

Paea’s goal is to have his entire family present for the Bears’ ‘‘Monday Night Football’’ matchup in San Francisco on Nov. 19.

‘‘My dad hasn’t watched any of my NFL games, and neither has my sister [Ramona],’’ Paea said.

His mother and his three brothers live in California, while his father and sister still work in Samoa. Paea and his mother are working to secure a green card for his father and a working visa for Ramona with Paea’s sponsorship.

When they get here, what they’ll see is a player who fills a critical role for the Bears. Paea has started the last six games and has 10 tackles, two tackles-for-loss and a sack.

‘‘I look at [nose tackle] as a pretty glorious position,’’ Bears defensive line coach Mike Phair said. ‘‘He’s doing a good job with it. He’s a key guy in our front doing the dirty work.’’

Phair said Paea’s quickness stands out. Defensive end Corey Wootton praised his strength and his ability to stay low, which the Bears say isn’t best exemplified by the 49 reps of 225 pounds he benched at the NFL Combine.

‘‘A lot of people don’t play as strong as they are,’’ Wootton said. ‘‘He plays as strong as he is.’’

“The biggest thing,’’ added defensive tackle Matt Toeaina, ‘‘is his humility. He would never boast about himself.’’

To be humble is a family lesson and trait, Paea said.

Of course it is.

‘‘I can’t explain it,’’ Ana said. ‘‘Would you believe it if you came here not even 10 years ago and you see your son playing in the NFL? It’s still a very emotional subject.’’

But a good one.