SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The next six weeks aren't just about preparing for Alabama or Georgia for Manti Te'o. The senior linebacker is a finalist for a truckload of honors, and was presented with the Awards and Recognition Association Sportsmanship Award Thursday afternoon.
He'll find out Monday evening if he's going to New York as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, but all indications point to Te'o heading to the ceremony in Times Square. Te'o is already a finalist for the Maxwell Award, Bednarik Award, Nagurski Trophy, Lombardi Award, Campbell Trophy, Lott IMPACT Trophy and Senior CLASS Award.
That's a busy schedule, and one that'll take Te'o away from South Bend for a week of banquets, ceremonies and glad-handing instead of preparing for the BCS Championship.
"I asked coach Kelly to make sure that there's a gym in whatever place we stay so when I come back I'm not D-lineman," Te'o said. "That's definitely something that I'll do myself to make sure I stay in shape."
Te'o had his final collegiate class Thursday, and will take his last round of finals the week after he returns. The impending end of his college career -- not only on the football field, but as a student at Notre Dame -- has garnered his focus in the last few days, not all the awards he may wind up winning.
"My attention has just been on taking advantage of every day," Te'o said. "I think all I've been thinking about is the time I have left here at school with my peers with my classmates. I'll be gone all next week so today was my last day of school. It was just hard to me to know that it's come to an end, a beautiful end."
The beauty of that end isn't dependent on the outcome of next week's Heisman Trophy presentation. It's a rarity for a defensive player to earn a trip to New York as a finalist, let alone win the award -- and Charles Woodson was featured as a wide receiver and returner with Michigan in 1997. There were no gimmicks to get Te'o in on offense this season, despite urges from a few players.
While Te'o hasn't appeared outwardly concerned with the Heisman, no matter how humble he is he'd like to win the award as an honor to Notre Dame, his teammates and his family. But he understands his candidacy is a long shot, given the history of defensive players in Heisman voting.
"If it doesn't happen, then whoever does win it is truly deserving of the award," Te'o said.
That person is likely to be Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, whose candidacy has been picked apart by Notre Dame supporters in recent days. One guy who isn't going to try to discount anything Manziel has done, though, is his direct competition for the Heisman.
"Dynamic player, really, really good playmaker," Te'o said of Manziel. "He always tends to make something out of nothing.
"That's definitely somebody that's of Heisman material," he added. "I'm a real big fan."