Te'o, 'the finest football player in America,' lands on SI cover

Te'o, 'the finest football player in America,' lands on SI cover
September 27, 2012, 2:18 am
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The Heisman Trophy is mainly an honor reserved for those who score points. But Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o has received a few calls for his name to enter the Heisman race over the last week or so, and ESPN's Heisman Watch has the Irish captain with seven points (two fourth-place, three fifth-place votes).

He has a host of offensive players to vault, with six quarterbacks (Geno Smith, E.J. Manuel, Collin Klein, Braxton Miller, Aaron Murray and Matt Barkley) and one running back (De'Anthony Thomas) all in the mix. It's an unlikely candidacy, but Te'o certainly deserves all the attention he's getting.

Which now includes a regional cover of Sports Illustrated:

(You can read Pete Thamel's story on Te'o here)

"I would say that Manti's the finest football player in America, all positions, all teams in college," Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco said Wednesday. "And that's he's the best football player that I've personally coached."

Te'o tragically lost his girlfriend and grandmother in the span of 24 hours, but played through his personal pain to lead the Irish to victories over Michigan State and Michigan. He was humbled by the support shown for him at Saturday's game against Michigan, with many in the crowd donning leis to support the linebacker.

And Te'o's teammates were inspired by his performance.

"Manti's one of our brothers. And not only is he one of our brothers, but he's like one of our big brothers," defensive end Stephon Tuitt said. "He's been here for a long time, he's a leader, he knows offenses very well, he knows how to put the defense in a spot to overcome so many situations that we're in.

'And the situation that he went into was a very tragic situation, which all of us pray for him. He's going through a hard time but we all gave him confidence to keep going and, at that time he may be a little weak inside, but he never showed it out. He always stayed strong, and watching that from him kept us going strong and kept us going every day and going out to Michigan to play really hard for him."