For Te'o, Notre Dame legacy isn't complete

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For Te'o, Notre Dame legacy isn't complete

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Manti Te'o could've declared for the NFL Draft after his junior year and left Notre Dame with a nice legacy, remembered as one of the better linebackers to ever play for the school.
Part of the reason why he returned, though, was to experience senior day, to run out of the tunnel at Notre Dame Stadium one last time to be greeted by his parents.
Te'o will get that chance on Saturday afternoon, when Notre Dame plays Wake Forest in its final home game of the 2012 season. But there was another motivating factor for Te'o to return after his junior year.
"He has unfinished business as it relates to this football team," coach Brian Kelly said on the outset of fall practice in August.
Three and a half months later, a 10-0 record and about all the national hype possible for a linebacker hasn't changed that motivation.
"Just hope we're playing sometime in January, that's our goal, that's the legacy that I'm looking at right now," Te'o said Wednesday. "Whatever is written while that's happening, so be it. But I'm just trying to do whatever it takes to make sure that my team is playing in January."
Truthfully, Te'o's already done enough to accomplish that goal. As the centerpiece of the best defense Notre Dame has seen in years, Te'o has led the charge to 10-0, and even if Notre Dame doesn't win out, a bid to a BCS bowl looks like a lock.
On top of that, Te'o has a legitimate chance to go to New York as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. He's a longshot to actually win the award, but given how rare it is for a defensive player to be named a finalist for college football's most prestigious honor, that's an accomplishment in itself.
It's also one Te'o isn't very interested in.
"I think when my name is being tossed around as a national champion, that's what I'm looking for," Te'o said. "You ask any Heisman winner that wasn't a national champion what they would rather be, and I think they would rather be the latter, a national champion.
"So that's what I want. I rather be holding a crystal ball than a bronze statue. That's just me."
Te'o is fond of saying that champions at Notre Dame become legends. Notre Dame may not have a shot at a national championship this year, despite Te'o's best efforts. There exists a possibility -- one that gets better with every Kansas State and Oregon victory -- that Notre Dame finishes the regular season 12-0 and gets shut out of the BCS Championship.
But this 2012 Notre Dame team won't soon be forgotten. The throngs of students who wore leis to Notre Dame's win over Michigan in September won't forget that experience, and that's just one example of many regarding Te'o's impact.
Te'o's legacy isn't just centered around his work on the football field. It encompasses him as a person, someone who dealt with tragedy with strength, someone who is serious about his work, someone who many view as a legitimate role model.
"He lives his life the right way," Kelly said. "He goes to class. He takes great care of himself off the field. He's a college student. He can laugh and have fun and be silly. He can be tough. He's just all that you would want in a young man as a college student and a representative of Notre Dame. He's a good student, fun to be around, and one darn good football player.
"So when that guy walks in and out of here every day, there is a mirroring effect and a trickle-down effect to the other players in the program that go 'I want to be like that guy.'"
Championship or not, Te'o's impact on Notre Dame will be felt long after he matriculates to the NFL. That's his legacy, and it's a pretty remarkable one at that for the linebacker from Laie, Hawaii.
"Once I leave here," he explained, "I hope that the impact I've made not only on the football field but in people's lives will forever be remembered."

White Sox draft pick Zack Collins wins Johnny Bench Award

White Sox draft pick Zack Collins wins Johnny Bench Award

This June just keeps getting better and better for Zack Collins.

Collins was selected by the White Sox with the No. 10 pick in the MLB Draft, made it to the College World Series with the University of Miami, signed his first professional contract and now he is the Johnny Bench Award winner.

The Johnny Bench Award was created in 2000 and is given to the top college catcher in Division 1. Previous winners include Buster Posey and Kurt Suzuki.

Collins already had a haul of first-team All-America honors from Baseball America, D1Baseball, the NCBWA, Perfect Game and Rawlings.

Collins hit .363 with 16 home runs, 59 RBIs and a .668 slugging percentage. He also led the nation with 78 walks this season for the Hurricanes, which went 0-2 at the College World Series. Collins started 62 of 64 Miami games and made 59 of those starts at catcher.

How Bulls could land a max free agent and re-sign E’Twaun Moore

How Bulls could land a max free agent and re-sign E’Twaun Moore

Quick note here because we are all eager to get back to our twitter feeds and wild speculation. Even though the Bulls will only have approximately $24 million in cap space, there is one situation in which they can sign a Tier 1 max player AND re-sign E’twaun Moore.

This all hinges on the deal (and discount) that Moore would give the Bulls. The Bulls have Early-Bird rights with Moore; that means they can potentially sign him to a deal and not eat into their cap space. There are a lot of rules into how this works and I won’t bore you with details, but the bottom line is that the Bulls can offer a 3-year deal for approx. $21 million or a 4-year deal for appox $28 million. If Moore accepts this contract, the Bulls just to have account for his ‘cap hold’ of $980,431 in free agency until the actual deal is signed. 

This potential deal would leave the Bulls approximately $23 million to spend, well above the $22.2 million it would take to land a Tier 1 (0-6 year NBA player) in free agency. This includes restricted free agent Harrison Barnes. Again, this only works if Moore doesn’t want to test free agency, or doesn’t receive a better offer in free agency. If Moore wants more money, the Bulls have to use their cap space to sign him to a larger deal.

One important key to any restricted free agent like Barnes, the Warriors will have 3 days to match any offer sheet that Barnes signs. Barnes can’t sign an offer sheet until July 7th, so the Warriors effectively will have until at least July 10th to make that decision. This prevents any team like the Bulls ‘swooping’ in and landing Barnes while Kevin Durant conducts his meetings in the Hamptons.

Cubs aren’t sweating loss to Mets or NLCS flashbacks: ‘Big-boy games are totally different'

Cubs aren’t sweating loss to Mets or NLCS flashbacks: ‘Big-boy games are totally different'

NEW YORK – The Cubs didn’t overreact to getting swept in last year’s National League Championship Series, but the New York Mets did expose some underlying issues while a deep playoff run created a sense of urgency in Wrigleyville.

The Cubs spent like crazy on the free-agent market (almost $290 million) and wore T-shirts around spring training that literally put targets on their chests, knowing the look would go viral on social media and spark love/hate responses.

Making a statement? Sending a message? That’s so last year, when the Cubs were a team still trying to find an identity and learn how to win. The Mets are now the ones feeling the season-on-the-brink anxiety, desperate for offense and crossing their fingers that all those talented young pitchers stay healthy.

Maybe this becomes a turning point for the defending NL champs, beating the Cubs 4-3 on Thursday night at Citi Field to kick off a marquee four-game series in front of 40,122 and a national TV audience. Not that John Lackey – the playoff-tested veteran the Cubs signed to lengthen their rotation for October – felt any added significance in facing the Mets.

“None,” Lackey said. “It’s June, who cares? Big-boy games are totally different.”

Yes, Lackey was “pretty surprised” and a little miffed that manager Joe Maddon pulled him with a runner on and one out in the seventh inning and the Cubs holding a 3-1 lead. Joel Peralta failed this bullpen audition, walking Alejandro De Aza (.158 average) and giving up an RBI single to just-promoted-from-Triple-A Las Vegas rookie Brandon Nimmo.

Neil Walker put the pressure on highlight-reel defender Javier Baez, who fielded a chopper at second base, didn’t have a play at home plate and made the split-second decision to throw toward backpedaling third baseman Kris Bryant. The Mets showed last October that little things matter in big-boy games, and the throwing error from a Gold Glove-caliber player suddenly gave them a 4-3 lead.  

“Getting beat’s one thing,” Lackey said. “But when you feel like you kind of gave one away – or let one go – that’s a different kind of loss.”

The Mets (41-37) might not have must-win games in July, but they needed some good news in “Panic City.” Steven Matz, who set off alarm bells this week with the disclosure he’s been pitching with a bone spur in his left elbow, managed to work into the sixth inning and throw 104 pitches, giving up homers to Bryant and Baez but limiting the damage to only three runs.

Yoenis Cespedes, who revived a lifeless lineup after last summer’s trade-deadline blockbuster, energized the Mets again with a big swing in the sixth inning, drilling a Lackey pitch 441 feet out to left field and onto the third deck, creating a 110-mph exit velocity with his 19th home run.

“New year, different team, different circumstances,” said Jake Arrieta, who lost Game 2 here last October, watching Daniel Murphy reach so far down for a curveball that his left knee almost scraped the dirt, driving it out for a momentum-shifting, first-inning, two-run homer. “We’ll probably relive some memories that weren’t very exciting.

“You never want to lose one step from a World Series. But, again, we had a team that was very young with a lot of rookies contributing. We gained a lot of valuable experience from those games, regardless of the outcome. And we’re obviously better for it this season with some new pieces. We look forward to ending in a little different fashion this year.”

The Cubs (51-27) still don’t have the answer for Mets closer Jeurys Familia, who finished off all four NLCS wins last October and is now 27-for-27 in save chances this season. Miguel Montero led off the ninth inning with a pinch-hit walk and Ben Zobrist followed with a double into right field before those all-or-nothing contact issues resurfaced.

Familia responded by striking out Bryant swinging – all six pitches were marked as sinkers clocked between 97 and 98 mph – and intentionally walking Anthony Rizzo to load the bases. Maybe this exposure will pay off in the playoffs, but Familia struck out Willson Contreras swinging and got Javier Baez to pop out to end the game. The Citi Field sound system started playing Ace Frehley’s “(I’m Back, Back in the) New York Groove.” Not that the Cubs were having flashbacks.

“We know the feeling of getting eliminated, getting swept, but I think we’re onto bigger and better things,” Bryant said. “We’re ready for it. Different year, different players here, different attitude.”