NOTRE DAME - Manti Te'o likely would have been the first Irish linebacker taken in the first round NFL draft since Bob Crable in 1982. "That decision, I don't think about it," Te'o said. "I don't think about, 'man, I gave up the NFL to be here.' I just look at it like it's another year. Another year for me to get better and it's another year for me to perform and just have fun."
Te'o's focus is squarely on his senior season at Notre Dame.
"He has unfinished business as it relates to this football team," Irish coach Brian Kelly said.
And for his final year, Te'o is offering a lot more than tackles and turnovers.
"I know we talk about leadership, and we talk about it in general terms but," Kelly said. "Manti is holding his peers to the same level that he holds himself. And he's being vocal about it. I think when he came here I think some of his comments were, it's hard for me to be vocal about certain things. Well, he's that guy now. He's that senior. He's that leader."
"When people said, 'you need to be more vocal, you need to be more vocal,' I kind of went out of my way to be vocal," Te'o said. "Just louder. And I think, for my teammates, they could see right through it. And that's what I meant. It was trial and error. Like for instance, I'd say, come on, let's go man. Like, that's not me, and people could see right through it. And so when I became more myself, and just did things the way I do it, I think they responded better to that."
Te'o has never had trouble finding the ball carrier. But now he's also found his voice. And even if it might be pretty quiet for a big guy, it'll be an important one all season.