Manti Te'o: Mature beyond his years

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Manti Te'o: Mature beyond his years

Notre Dame fans, every single one of them, should take a moment and give thanks...to Charlie Weis.

For all of his shortcomings, and the sky-high expectations of a Knute Rockne-Lou Holtz dynasty that never happened -- or came close to happening while he was the head coach at Notre Dame -- Weis did bring one masterful prize to South Bend; a certain Heisman Trophy candidate that has helped put the Golden Domers back on the college football map.

All hail, Manti Te'o.

The senior linebacker is not your typical college football player, nor is he your average human being.

Te'o is special -- in the way he plays and thinks, walks and talks, lives and breathes.

That's one reason why Weis and former Notre Dame assistant Brian Polian made so many trips to Hawaii in 2008 and 2009 hoping to land Te'o, then the top defensive high schooler in the nation.

How many visits did they make?

"Too many," Te'o says with a laugh. "It was at the point where I told coach Polian, 'You don't have to come this often. You can just call me. You don't have to come and show up.' But it showed their dedication and it paid off. It really did pay off."

Certainly for Notre Dame. Not so much for Weis and Polian. They were fired after Te'o's freshman season in 2009.

Now three years later, Te'o is one of the best college players in the country, the Irish are undefeated at 9-0, and they are knocking on the door for a possible national championship -- what Weis and Polian were going after when they piled up all those miles flying across the Pacific Ocean.

"It would be the perfect ending to this great chapter in my life," Te'o says. "But national champions understand that it's one game at a time, one day at a time, getting better everyday. To think of that, and think of being known as a national champion at the end of the season, yeah it's a dream come true."

On the football field, Te'o plays like a valiant warrior, with a heart of a lion, undaunted by the chaos around him. Nothing scares him.

But what about off the field? What does he fear, if anything?

"I fear failure. That's my biggest fear is failure," he admits. "It's not being able to provide for my family. It's not bringing honor to my family. I don't fear anything else. I don't fear any individual. I just fear letting people down, and people that depend on me the most."

For Te'o, that's his family.

"My family is my prized possession," he says pointedly. "My family is everything."

But in September, Te'o lost two integral parts to his world. His grandmother and girlfriend passed away -- just six hours apart. His grandmother succumbed to cancer. His girlfriend died after a long battle with leukemia.

The depth of Te'o's grief is deep, and so is his mind, which exhibits the maturity and wisdom of a man twice or even three times his age.

"Although I may not be able to see them and hear them, I have faith that I will see them again," Te'o explains. "It paints this world in a whole different picture where you understand what life is really about. Yeah, football is great, all the winning is great, but at the end of the day we're all going to pass on, and what I'm going to take with me is who I am as a person, and all the lives I've had an impact on. I hope and pray everyday that I have an impact on somebody in a positive way."

Te'o is a religious man. He says his Mormon faith helped him overcome losing both loved ones so close to each other.

They might be gone, but he feels both women around him.

"All the time. I specifically sense my girlfriend around me whenever I say hi to another young lady. I feel somebody just saying, 'Who is that? Why are you saying hi?' But I sense them. I feel them whenever I'm alone. I'm feeling them telling me that everything is going to be OK."

If you were to break open Te'o's DNA, you would find all the necessary genes of a leader. He's a chief in the Notre Dame locker room and the commander of the defense. However, what makes Te'o an even greater leader is the humility he brings to his role as Notre Dame nobility.

"I think if you ask the good leaders, they won't acknowledge themselves as leaders," he says. "I don't acknowledge myself as a leader. I just acknowledge myself as somebody who's trying to win."

Te'o knows the name of every walk-on. How many college stars can do that? Or even name one?

And you can forget about being a macho football player. He has no reservations about expressing his love for his teammates.

"I know every one of my teammates. I know what they like, I know what they don't like, and as a leader of my team, I need to know that. I need to know that so I can relate to each of them," Te'o says. "If my guys can't trust me, if my guys can't love me, and I can't love them, we won't be very good. When you have that dynamic, having guys playing for the guy next to them instead of for themselves, special things start to happen."

They already have, thanks to Te'o.

And thanks to Charlie Weis.

He might be miles away in the rearview mirror, but the distance he and Polian flew to get Manti to Notre Dame is probably Charlie's greatest victory.

Te'o is proving that he's a winner every day of his life.

Bears linebacker Lamarr Houston rips 'arrogant' Aaron Rodgers in ESPN interview

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Bears linebacker Lamarr Houston rips 'arrogant' Aaron Rodgers in ESPN interview

Three days after the conclusion of the NFL Draft, Lamarr Houston already fired the first shot in the new chapter of the Bears-Packers rivalry.

After the Bears beat the Packers on Thanksgiving night last season, Houston spouted off on Aaron Rodgers, saying, "I give two flying you know what about him. I really don't like that guy."

The Bears linebacker made an appearance on ESPN's SportsNation Monday and further explained his issue with the Green Bay quarterback, including Rodgers' championship belt celebration:

"He's a little arrogant for me," Houston said. "He's a little too arrogant. He's a cheesehead. I'm a Bear; he's a cheesehead. I have a lot of respect for his game, I will say that. He's a great quarterback and as a player, I have a lot of respect for his game. That whole championship belt thing kinda gets on my nerves."

When asked if Rodgers has ever displayed this arrogance on the field besides the celebration, Houston said:

"He's chimed a few words to me before. And I'll keep that to myself."

It's particularly interesting that Houston takes issue with Rodgers' celebrations considering the linebacker tore his ACL celebrating a sack in the Bears' blowout loss to the New England Patriots in 2014.

Houston recorded seven tackles and a sack of Rodgers in that Thanksgiving matchup last season.

The Bears meet the Packers at Lambeau Field in Week 7 and host Rodgers and Co. at Soldier Field Week 15 in 2016.

Blackhawks' Artem Anisimov undergoes wrist surgery

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Blackhawks' Artem Anisimov undergoes wrist surgery

Artem Anisimov said last week that he and the Blackhawks had to make the most of this offseason to be prepared for 2016-17. On Tuesday, he took care of something that was apparently ailing him.

Anisimov underwent surgery on Tuesday to repair an injury to his right wrist. Blackhawks team physician Dr. Michael Terry said in a statement that, “the surgery went well. We anticipate his return to full hockey activities in approximately six to eight weeks.”

The 27-year-old center played in 77 regular-season and all seven postseason games for the Blackhawks. He was tied for second on the team with three postseason goals (with Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith).

During last week’s closing meetings, Anisimov said he was going to stay in the Chicago area “for a while” before returning to Russia. He also talked about finding the silver lining in the Blackhawks’ early playoff exit.

“We just need to spend our summer wisely, get prepared for the next season and move forward,” he said.

Kameron Chatman the latest to transfer away from Michigan basketball

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Kameron Chatman the latest to transfer away from Michigan basketball

Players keep leaving the Michigan basketball program.

An offseason of roster turnover continued Tuesday, when the school announced that junior-to-be Kameron Chatman has been granted a release from his scholarship and will transfer.

"I honestly don't think I could have had a more quality life experience than I did in Ann Arbor," Chatman said in the announcement. "I am incredibly grateful for my two years at Michigan. I would like to thank coach (John) Beilein and his entire staff for taking a chance on a small-town kid out of Portland. I know my experience has inspired others as I will take all of my lessons learned to continue my pursuit of becoming the best man and player I can. Go Blue!"

"Kam is a wonderful young man with the potential to mature into a fine college player," Beilein said. "We have enjoyed coaching him over the past two years and wish him nothing but the best."

Chatman becomes the fourth player to transfer out of the program this offseason, joining Spike Albrecht, Ricky Doyle and Aubrey Dawkins. Albrecht announced his decision to attend Purdue on Tuesday, and Dawkins is planning a move to Central Florida so he can play for his father.

Chatman started 17 games over his two seasons with the Wolverines, averaging 3.2 points and two rebounds per game.

Last season, he hit a buzzer-beating, game-winning shot in the Big Ten Tournament to lift Michigan to an upset of top-seeded Indiana. The shot gave the Wolverines a signature win and likely was the difference in the team making th NCAA tournament field.

Chatman was a four-star recruit out of high school, ranked as the No. 25 player in the Class of 2014. He was part of a six-man Michigan recruiting class that season, only two of which remain in Ann Arbor.

Due to NCAA rules, Chatman will have to sit out next season before playing his final two years of eligibility at his next school.