This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
If you are anticipating the BYU-Notre Dame football game this Saturday, hopefully you have enjoyed the weeklong coverage in The Salt Lake Tribune. There's more in Friday's newspaper, including this short story about BYU deep snapper Reed Hornung, who is distantly related to former Notre Dame great Paul Hornung. Also today, Tribune sports writer Martin Renzhofer profiles BYU's 17-year-old freshman running back, Jamaal Williams. And Tribune columnist Gordon Monson describes the scene in South Bend on Notre Dame football Saturdays in this piece. A few days ago, I profiled Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, a Heisman Trophy candidate and one-time BYU recruit. We're calling Te'o "the one who got away" from BYU. I asked BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall if he foresaw the impact Te'o would have on college football four years ago when BYU was recruiting him. "He's just a really good player. Their defensive scheme is actually very similar in style to what we play. It is a 3-4, and the middle linebacker, the mike linebacker, is really active. So it is basically the Uona Kaveinga position for us, and he's a really good player," Mendenhall said. More comments on Te'o from the half-dozen or so interviews I did on the Irish superstar:
BYU quarterback Riley Nelson on watching film of Te'o
"Believe the hype on Manti Te'o. He's as good as advertised. He's the heart and soul of that defense, and makes it tick." Nelson on whether they have to know where Te'o is at all the time:"Yeah, we are going to have to account for him, and I am going to have to do a good job of every time I drop back knowing where he is. We are going to try to get chunks, but the heart of our offense is that underneath, possession, passing offense, and he is a very smart, instinctive football player. So presnap and postsnap I will always have to know where he is."
BYU offensive coordinator Brandon Doman on whether they have to know where Manti Te'o is on the field:"You do. Yeah, you have to know where he is. He triggers so fast. He's a smart football player. He's been doing it now for awhile, he's well-coached, and he's very athletic. It would be very smart of us to know where he's at, and we will have to utilize a few different schemes to have a chance to be successful."Doman on whether he was in on Te'o's recruitment:"I was, yeah. I know him and I have been in his house. We fought all the way to the end. I was in Hawaii there the last week of recruiting, trying to get him to come to BYU." BYU tight end Kaneakua Friel, who is also from Hawaii, on whether he knows Te'o: "I only know him from high school. I played against him in high school. I went to Kamehameha High School and he went to Punahou. So I only know him from playing across the line. He used to play outside linebacker, and I used to play tight end. So we used to play against each other pretty much half the game. He was a year younger than myself. Now he is a year older than me in eligibility, because I went on a mission. So it is going to be a good game. He was not as big as he is now in high school. I feel like he is just as fast and more aggressive. So, I have gained some size. I don't know if I am faster. I feel like it will be a good matchup. Him, a great, great player in the nation, going against our front. He's a great player. I respect him." Friel on whether he figured Te'o would be that good:"He was a good player in high school. One thing I always loved about him is he always pursued to the ball. He was a very passionate player and no matter where the ball was thrown, or no matter where it was run away from him, he was always chasing it down and that contributes to the amount of tackles he has now and the number he has had the last couple of years. He is just another player. We can't let that hype get into our heads. He is just another guy."Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly on Te'o's chances of winning the Heisman Trophy:"Again, by definition, he would be considered for that award. Now, we know where it has gone it has gone to quarterbacks and offensive players. But again, you have to extrapolate this out. Where are we at the end of the season? All those kinds of things. If you have go the No. 1-ranked defense in the country, I think he certainly is in the conversation. But we are six weeks into it. What I do know, is that as a leader, there has not been anyone in my 22 years [of coaching] that is a better leader, both on and off the field, and represent the kind of ideals that you want in college football, than Manti Te'o. And I don't even think that's close. And I have had extraordinary young men that have played for me. So that I know for sure, that as a leader and a representative of our program, unmatched." On whether he will talk to Manti about his emotions going into BYU game:"I think we will know if that type of conversation needs to take place. With Manti, because we have so much conversation on a day to day basis, I would know, or sense, if there was something that was not right there in other words, if there was not a good, balanced approach to the game and what it meant. But I have no plans right now to talk to him about that unless I see something or I am told something from other coaches or other players." Te'o on the support he receives from the LDS community in South Bend:"Very supportive, just like I have known ever since I was young ... very helpful, and people that have just always been there for me. I am very fortunate to have that." Te'o on what it is that keeps them from getting distracted and not focusing on every opponent:"There are guys who love to win. But for me, my hate to lose is greater than my love to win. I hate losing, and that's what drives me ... I am going to try to do whatever I can to avoid that feeling of walking out of any stadium with that feeling. I would rather be the guy who learns that lesson from watching other teams lose, than at the expense of myself. So that's what drives me." Te'o on not getting upset by BYU, a two-touchdown underdog:"We don't want to be that team that has to learn the hard way. We don't want to be that team that is on ESPN, or any big headlines [as a] big upset. We don't want to be that team. I think those teams are created because they forgot how they got here."Te'o on whether this is a trap game for the Irish:"I think it is only a trap game if you are dealing with a young team, a team that is not focused on one singular goal, which is to take it day by day, week by week. Our team has done a great job of just focusing on the next opponent. We don't have Oklahoma this week. We don't have Stanford. Now it is BYU. That's is all we are focusing on BYU. Until Sunday comes, we will focus on BYU. It is all BYU." Te'o on Kelly's compliment that he's best leader in 22 years:"That's a big compliment, especially coming from coach Kelly. For me, I just try to instill love. I think whenever, as a captain, as a leader, when you have guys around you that love you, and respect you, that's when you will experience a lot of success. ... We don't play for ourselves. We play for the guy next to us. We play for this university. We play for our family and friends."