Manti Te’o: If You Had Told Me I’d Be Playing For A National Championship And Be A Heisman Contender, I Would Say You’re Crazy”

When Manti Te’o decided to return for his senior season at Notre Dame, it was because he wanted to make some priceless memories. That doesn’t mean he was expecting all this. Te’o could become just the second primarily defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy and could finish with a national championship as well. Manti Te’o joined WFNZ in Charlotte with The Drive to discuss what life has been like the past few weeks, his roller-coaster-like career, how he’s been able to handle so much adversity, critics who say Notre Dame couldn’t compete in the SEC, how the Irish will be able to handle the big stage of the national championship game and the decision to come back for this, his senior season.

What have your emotions been like as you guys completed and undefeated season and now know you’ll face Alabama for a national championship?:

“Just blessed, just blessed to be in this situation with my team. I never would have pictured it like this. I’m just so proud of the way our team has played throughout the season, and I’m excited to get after it.”

Take us through the roller-coaster type of season that you’ve had:

“It’s been a dream come true. I think, with all the adversity that hit, and also all the success, it’s bittersweet. I couldn’t have done it without my team, I couldn’t have done it without my family, and the support of the Notre Dame family, it’s just been incredible. It’s incredible how one community rallies around one player. I’m just truly blessed to be here.”

Why are you able to handle so much adversity?:

“I put heavenly father first. In times like that, you have to rely on the man upstairs, because he’s the only one who can give you the strength to get through it. I always understood as a child that there’s nothing that the heavenly father is going to throw at you that you can’t handle. And so I knew that, and I really relied on the Lord to help me. That’s basically the only person who could help me in those times.”

On those who say if Notre Dame played in the SEC, the Irish wouldn’t finish higher than third in either division:

“We’ll just have to wait and see on Jan. 7. That’s all I can say. We’re going to prepare the best way we can and do the same thing that we’ve done all year. All those games in the past don’t matter. It’s become a one-game season, and all that I’m thinking about is just enjoying the ride and finishing out with a bang.”

Alabama has been in this spot and is going for its third title in four years. You guys haven’t been here, but why do you think you have a chance to win the big game?:

“Because we’re going to prepare. It’s going to be a great battle against a great team. Whatever happens is meant to happen, and we’re just going to line up and read our keys and just get after it against a good team. We’re all excited.”

Did you believe something like this was possible when you decided to come back for your senior year?:

“I came back for the memories, for the experiences I could share with my teammates and my family. You talked about before, I had the opportunity to leave and hopefully make a lot of money, but I knew that money can’t buy the kind of memories I’ve made this year. If you would have told me in my junior year, when I was deciding to come back or to leave, that I’d be playing a great team like Alabama in the national championship, and to be a finalist for the Heisman, I would say you’re crazy.”

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