Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o won the Lombardi Award on Wednesday as college football’s best lineman or linebacker.
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Te’o, also a Heisman Trophy finalist, had 103 tackles and seven interceptions this year to help the undefeated Fighting Irish reach the BCS championship game against Alabama.
”It’s the big dance,” Te’o said about the title game. ”It is something that you dream about when you are little and for me to be in that game and playing against a real good Alabama team, it will be a perfect end to this chapter in my life.”
Te’o edged Alabama offensive lineman Barrett Jones, Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones and South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney for the award presented by the Rotary Club of Houston.
”You look at my highlights and you look at their highlights, I’m a big fan of their highlights,” Te’o said.
”When you look at the company I am with — Jarvis, JC, Barrett — all guys that have proven themselves many, many times. For me to walk away with it, I am just very, very grateful. All of those guys are deserving of the trophy as well, so it is just a great experience and great opportunity for me.”
On Monday, Te’o won the Dick Butkus Award as the best linebacker, and the Bronko Nagurski Award as the nation’s top defensive player.
Te’o will be in New York on Saturday for the Heisman Trophy presentation. The other finalists are Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Kansas State’s Collin Klein, both quarterbacks.
”It’s special for me because I get to represent Notre Dame and represent my family on the national stage, and so, I am just very excited,” Te’o said. ”I am very excited to get to know those other two guys.”