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After the 2011 season, there was speculation that Manti Te'o would forgo his senior season at Notre Dame for a surely lucrative contract in the NFL.
Instead, Te'o returned to South Bend to finish his career and is being justly rewarded.
The 2012 Heisman finalist is looking to become just the second defensive player in history to win the coveted award, and a simple glance at his stat sheet shows why: 103 tackles, seven interceptions, 5.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and one fumble recovery.
But stats only tell a small fraction of the story.
Te'o overcame great personal loss this season after suffering through the deaths of both his grandmother and girlfriend to become the heart and soul of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
The Irish rode their defense—headlined by Te'o—to a 12-0 record this season, and they are now preparing for the BCS National Championship Game in Miami. But win or lose, this season has been something special for Our Lady of the Lake, and Notre Dame fans everywhere have Manti Te'o to thank.
And unlike others around the nation who opted to return to campus in 2012, Te'o's senior year has proven to only cement his status as a soon-to-be NFL superstar.