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Te’o, Eifert bring home national awards

Matthew DeFranks | Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Coming into the season, Irish senior linebacker Manti Te’o was an All-American selection – but never in anyone’s wildest dreams was he a Heisman Trophy contender. But still, Te’o sat in New York on Saturday as a finalist for the most famous trophy in college football.

Te’o made history by finishing second to Texas A&M redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel and securing the most points ever by an exclusively defensive player. The senior from Laie, Hawaii, tallied 1,706 points and 321 first-place votes.

“It’s motivation,” Te’o said Saturday night. “I always wanted to be the best. I just use that motivation too. Just to be the best I can be. Obviously, I have a lot of work to do and I’m just excited to get back and get things cracking.”

Te’o said he was happy the awards circuit was done with so he could prepare for No. 2 Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game in Miami on Jan. 7.

“I’m relieved it’s over. I’m excited that I get the chance to prepare for Bama,” Te’o said. “Heisman Trophy or national championship, I’ll take a national championship 100 times out of 100.”

His runner-up finish for the Heisman was just part of a hectic week of traveling to awards shows around the country. Te’o traveled to five different cities and three different time zones to rack up seven national awards, more than anyone in college football history in one season.

Before the Heisman ceremony, Te’o had already won the Butkus Award, Nagurski Award (best defensive player), Lombardi Award (best lineman or linebacker), Walter Camp Player of the Year, Bednarik Award (most outstanding defensive player) and Maxwell Award (most outstanding player).
In Newport Beach, Calif., on Sunday night – a day after losing the Heisman Trophy in New York – Te’o won the Lott Trophy, awarded to college football’s defensive IMPACT Player of the Year.

“To be a player and do the stuff that he wants to do on a team that’s 12-0 playing in the national championship that hasn’t been there in years is absolutely breathtaking,” sophomore defensive end Stephon Tuitt said Friday night after Notre Dame’s annual awards show. “He is the leader on a team going to the national championship.”

Te’o accumulated 103 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, four quarterback hurries, two fumble recoveries and seven interceptions. His nine caused turnovers are tied for tops in the country.

Eifert wins Mackey
Senior tight end Tyler Eifert took home the Mackey Award, annually presented to the top tight end in the nation.

Eifert has 44 catches for 624 yards and four touchdowns this season. He beat out finalists Zach Ertz of Stanford and Austin Seferian-Jenkins of Washington.

The senior from Fort Wayne, Ind., is Notre Dame’s all-time leading receiver among tight ends and is the first Irish player to win the Mackey Award.

Coaches earn honors
Both Irish coach Brian Kelly and defensive coordinator Bob Diaco also won prestigious awards.

Kelly won the Home Depot Coach of the Year award, becoming the first coach in the award’s history to win twice. He also won in 2009 as head coach of Cincinnati. Kelly has led the Irish to its first undefeated regular season in 24 years.

Diaco, meanwhile, won the Broyles Award as the best assistant coach in the country. Diaco built the nation’s top scoring defense, allowing 10.3 points per game. The Irish defense ranks in the top 20 nationally in 16 different statistical categories. He is the first Notre Dame coach to win the award.

AP All-Americans
The Irish placed four players on the Associated Press All-American teams announced Tuesday.

Te’o earned first-team honors while Eifert and Tuitt were named to the second-team. Graduate student center Braxston Cave garnered third-team honors.

Contact Matthew DeFranks at mdefrank@nd.edu