ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey— Notre Dame Linebacker Manti Te’o was awarded the 76th annual Maxwell Award and Chuck Bednarik Award for his outstanding performance en route to the Fighting Irish’s BCS National Championship game appearance this past season.
"To be honest with you, it’s all because of my team," said Te’o during Friday’s press conference at Harrah’s Theater. "I think if our team didn’t have the season that we did, I definitely wouldn’t be sitting here. Definitely, it’s because of my team. Football is the best team sport. Everybody has to do their job. So for me to be here, it’s because the other 10 guys on the defense, the 11 guys on offense and the guys on the sidelines did their job."
Te’o has been through a whirlwind of controversy and under great scrutiny most recently for what many football scouts and pundits are calling a “sub-par” performance during last week’s NFL combine in Indianapolis. In the wake of a torrent of criticism, Te’o is trying shut out the distractions and concentrate on football.
“Avoid a lot of the stuff,” quipped Te’o on staying out of the limelight. “I think [it’s] just knowing what you can control and knowing what you can’t control. What I can control is preparing for the combine. What I can control is making myself the best player, the best person that I can be. Whatever that is, I focus on that.”
With the combine in his rear-view, Te’o reflected on his experience and his next step from here.
“As a football player in general, that’s one of those big stepping stones,” admitted Te’o. “Growing up, you see people doing the combine and when you finally get there, it’s kind of like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m finally at the combine.’ There is a lot of just pressure, and a lot of excitement. It definitely was a great opportunity for me to be there, but I’m glad that I’ve finished that and now I’ve got the pro day.”
With April’s draft just around the corner, Te’o is relishing his opportunity to get a chance to compete on football’s biggest stage.
“I hope I get drafted,” said Te’o. “I think that’s everybody’s hope at this point. You prepare, you work hard, you do your best and you hope for the best. I don’t know where, specifically, I’m going. I just hope that one of those 32 places becomes my home.”