By Charles Lam
Northwest Asian Weekly
Manti Te’o, Notre Dame linebacker from Hawaii, became one of four finalists for the 2012 Lott IMPACT Trophy on Nov. 30 as announced by the Pacific Club IMPACT Foundation. Fellow finalists include University of Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones, Stanford linebacker Chase Thomas, and Kansas State linebacker Arthur Brown.
The Lott IMPACT Trophy is presented annually to the Defensive IMPACT Player of the Year and is based equally on the player’s character and conduct off the field, as well as their athletic performance on it.
Though the Lott Trophy is not as prestigious as the Heisman Trophy, which is awarded to the country’s most outstanding football player and of which Te’o is also a finalist, the Lott is notable for taking a player’s character into account.
Character is something Te’o doesn’t lack. He became the face of the top ranked team in the country in 2012 and is the leader of a great defensive team.
This performance comes after a year of adversity for Te’o. On Sept. 11, he lost both his grandmother and his girlfriend to separate battles with cancer. Despite these losses, Te’o didn’t miss a single game due to a promise he made to his girlfriend.
“I really wanted to see her,” Te’o said during a press conference following a game that took place the same day as his girlfriend’s funeral. “But I knew that she made me promise, you know, one day, she made me promise. She said, ‘Babe, if anything happens to me, you promise you’ll still stay over there and that you’ll play and that you’ll honor me through the way you play, and you know I would rather have you there.’ And just to make sure that all she wanted was some white roses. White is her favorite color. So she just wanted some white roses and that’s all she asked for. I sent her roses and sent her two picks along with that, so that was good.”
Te’o is also an Eagle Scout and has volunteered extensively with Shriner’s Hospital, the Head Start preschool program, Hawai’i Food Bank, and the Special Olympics. Soon after the death of his girlfriend, Te’o eased the pain of a 12-year-old Notre Dame football fan with brain cancer, writing her a heartfelt letter in her last days.
Te’o’s character is backed by his skills. In addition to leading the strongest defense in college football, Te’o was also the first player to win both the high school and college Butkus Award, which is given to the best linebacker in the country. He is projected to be a first-round pick when he enters the NFL Draft in 2013. (end)
The Heisman will be awarded on Dec. 8 in New York City. The event will be broadcast live on ESPN.
The LOTT Trophy will be presented the day after Dec. 8 in Newport Beach, Calif. The event will be televised live by FOX Sports beginning at 7 p.m. PST.
Charles Lam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.