He's coming back, folks. Manti Te'o, the heart and soul of the Fighting Irish defense, made the decision late Sunday night to return to school for his senior season.
According to NFLDraftScout.com, Te'o is considered to be the nation's second-best inside linebacker, behind Arizona State's Vontaze Burfict.
So, why is it that Te'o left millions of dollars on the table to return to school for one more year? The answer is simple. His heart.
While being recruited out of the Punahou School, the alma mater of Barack Obama, Te'o was bombarded with offers from many of the country's best football programs. After narrowing his decision to USC, BYU and Notre Dame, Te'o faced a dilemma.
The pressure to choose USC, the favorite amongst his peers, didn't affect the 6'2", 255-pound linebacker nearly as much as one would assume. He may have only been 18 years old at the time, but Manti Te'o was, and continues to be, wise beyond his years.
After offering up a few prayers and receiving an encouraging text message from his father, Brian, Te'o knew that he was being called to Notre Dame. Te'o cited the spirituality and excellent academic reputation as two of the leading factors in his decision to attend Notre Dame.
Manti's thought process and attitude concerning whether or not he should return to school is extremely reminiscent of his decision to attend Notre Dame in the first place.
Surprisingly, football wasn't the motivating factor in his decision.
Graduating from Notre Dame is really important to me. Many people encouraged me to go to the NFL because I could always earn my diploma later in life. If I did that, though, I would not have the chance for the same experiences that are ahead of me in my senior year, and I would not have finished at Notre Dame with the guys I started with and care so much about. When I weighed all the factors that went into this decision, it just felt right to stay at Notre Dame.
If the reasons behind his decision don't impress you, I'm not sure what will. Manti's desire to earn his degree and to finish what he started truly speak to his level of maturity. How many other 20-year-old kids would be wise enough to make a decision such as this one?
With more and more college football players treating their college years simply as a preparation for the NFL, it's pleasing to know that at least one player understands the value of an education, as well as the memories and experiences that are made during the four years on a college campus.
The happiest moments so far in my life have come when I am spending time with people I love. I wanted to spend another year with my teammates and the coaches on our team. I don’t think any sum of money can replace the memories I can create in my senior year.
Manti Te'o will be creating more memories not only with his friends, teammates, coaches and professors, but with all who are associated with the Notre Dame football program.
The Hawaiian native will likely be creating some frightening memories for opposing offenses, too.
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