Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o has won the Chuck Bednarik Award, given to college football's top defensive player.
The Bednarik Award for Defensive Player of the Year goes to Notre Dame's Manti Te'o.— Eye on College FBall (@EyeOnCFB) December 7, 2012
The Fighting Irish star joins a select list that includes Charles Woodson, Julius Peppers and Patrick Peterson, all of whom illustrated their dominance at the college level before making an impact in the NFL. Tyrann Mathieu won the honor last season.
Te'o was the heart and soul of the top-ranked Irish defense. He racked up 103 tackles, seven interceptions and 1.5 sacks, illustrating his tremendous versatility and providing the glue that held the entire defense together during the team's undefeated run.
More importantly than any stat, he was the emotional leader of the No. 1 ranked team in the country. There were plenty of moments in tension-filled games against Stanford and Pittsburgh where he made sure the Irish didn't falter.
Did the voters get it right?
Notre Dame wouldn't have been able to accomplish what it did without him. He represents the hard-working mentality of the program perfectly. He's exactly what the program needed to get back in the national title picture.
Te'o wins the award over two other worthy stars. Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones and South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney both had terrific seasons and could have won in a different year. But it's hard to argue against the Te'o selection.
He arrived at Notre Dame with a boatload of potential and high expectations. It took some time, but he developed into one of the most consistent, effective players in the country. Now the senior has the hardware to prove it.
While Te'o has a bright future ahead of him at the next level, it will be tough for the senior to match the type of impact he had on Notre Dame in the NFL.
It was a special season from a special player for one of the most storied programs in America.