Default

Te'o discovers why Notre Dame was the right choice

893633.png

Te'o discovers why Notre Dame was the right choice

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Growing up an avid USC fan, Manti Te'o had dreamed of one day playing for the Trojans. But when it came down to making a final decision, the linebacker out of Laie, Hawaii chose Notre Dame for reasons he could never quite put his finger on. He just knew that this team and this school felt right.

But he felt Notre Dame's 13-6 win over No. 18 Michigan Saturday was a fitting example why.

It's been nearly three weeks since Te'o lost his grandmother to a long illness and his girlfriend to an ongoing battle with leukemia. But despite the tragic loss, the senior linebacker hasn't missed a beat, displaying his strength, passion and commitment to his his team and the place he's called home.

"Four years ago when I decided to come here, I didn't know why. It's starting to unveil itself why, why I felt that I was told to come here. I can't thank my team enough. I can't thank the students and just the fan base around the world, Notre Dame and non-Notre Dame fans. They've been really great," an emotional Te'o said.

Fans wore Hawaiian leis around their necks and broke out into a booming cheer for Te'o after the game, creating a moment on the field that exuded the support and compassion the Notre Dame faithful have for him.

"You know, it's just very humbling for me and my family," Te'o added. "And I appreciate all the love and support that my family and my girlfriend's family has been getting."

Te'o played a key role in Notre Dame's first victory over Michigan since 2008, recording eight tackles, intercepting two passes and putting constant pressure on Denard Robinson, who threw four picks and fumbled once.

But when it comes to coach Brian Kelly's level of respect for him, it isn't just about the numbers.

"He's the guy in there. I mean, it all revolves around him, his personality, his strength. He's a special guy. Take advantage of him while you've got him now, because I've never been around a kid like that."

Wake-up Call: Cubs take Crosstown Cup; Breakout season for Kevin White?

Wake-up Call: Cubs take Crosstown Cup; Breakout season for Kevin White?

If Kyle Schwarber's back, the rest of the National League will have another reason to worry about the second-half Cubs

Kevin White is starting small to answer the big question: Can he break out in 2017?

White Sox continue dealing, trade Dan Jennings to Rays for prospect

NBA economic reality could speed up Bulls rebuild

Brewers whiffing on Jose Quintana may have changed everything for Cubs

Shunning hypotheticals, Bears aren’t setting a timetable for Pernell McPhee

Recovering from injury and switching positions, there's a lot on Kyle Long's plate at Bears training camp

Aaron Bummer on what it's like to get called up to the majors

Anthony Rizzo: More than talent needed for successful rebuild

Are Dabo Swinney and Joe Maddon BFF's?

If Kyle Schwarber's back, the rest of the National League will have another reason to worry about the second-half Cubs

If Kyle Schwarber's back, the rest of the National League will have another reason to worry about the second-half Cubs

Kyle Schwarber’s proper introduction to the Cubs-Sox rivalry came in the summer of 2015 when a fan on the South Side threw a half-empty “tall boy” at him in left field. A little more than a year removed from college, Schwarber didn’t understand why someone wouldn’t finish all the beer first.  

David Ross chimed in, raising his voice loud enough so Schwarber and a group of reporters could hear him inside the visiting clubhouse: “You should have shotgunned it and then went over there and found him.

“I tell you what: I’d hate to try to wrap up Kyle Schwarber. I guarantee you that whoever threw that beer doesn’t want (any) part of Kyle Schwarber. I promise you that one.”

That was the rookie orientation before Schwarber: blasted five playoff home runs that October; suffered a devastating knee injury that almost wiped out his entire 2016 season; made a dramatic return to the World Series; and experienced newfound fame and fortune that would change his life forever.

Mess with Schwarber? That aura of invincibility is gone after his detour to Triple-A Iowa before the All-Star break. But the first-place Cubs will take Thursday night’s 6-3 win over the White Sox as another sign that he is almost back, yet another reason why the defending champs look ready to continue this second-half surge. 

“I told him that if he had a couple more push-ups in there, he would have had three homers tonight, but we’ll take a triple,” winning pitcher Jon Lester said afterward. “Schwarber’s been swinging the bat great since he’s been back.”

No doubt, the Cubs caught the sell-mode White Sox at the right time during the final days leading up to the July 31 trade deadline. Even in going 3-for-4 and blasting his 16th and 17th home runs – which traveled 814 feet combined at Guaranteed Rate Field – Schwarber is still only hitting .191 with 90 strikeouts in 79 games this season.     

But the Cubs have always given Schwarber the benefit of the doubt and will point to his big personality and encouraging numbers since his Triple-A reset ended on July 6, getting on base almost 37 percent of the time and hitting safely in 10 of 13 games with five homers, three doubles and that triple.

“Retrospectively, we should not have expected that much,” manager Joe Maddon admitted. “I’m guilty of that kind of a narrative or a dialogue also, because I was really eager to watch him play a full season of Major League Baseball.

“But the guy missed the whole season and did really well in a small window of time at the end of the year. So maybe my expectations exceeded what they should have been.

“I do believe he is that good. I do believe you’re going to come back and see him play at the level we anticipated. But he might have just needed more time. And we just didn’t recognize that.

“I might have been as guilty as anybody regarding the promotion of that. But I believe in him fully. I know it’s going to happen. There’s been some really good major-league hitters that have gone through the same thing.” 

At this point, the Cubs (54-47) would love to see what kind of wrecking ball Schwarber could be for a half-season. To his credit, Schwarber has been the same throughout all the ups and downs, someone who looks and sounds like a guy you would drink tall boys with.

“I just want to worry about putting the barrel on the ball,” Schwarber said. “I’m just trying to stay within myself, be short (with my swing) and it’s paying off.”