This may not be the most widely-publicized honor that Manti Te’o will ever receive, but it is undoubtedly one that he will appreciate more than the rest: the absolute respect, admiration, and appreciation from his classmates.
Earlier this season, terrible tragedy struck Manti Te’o and his family, and Te’o displayed unimaginable mental toughness and strength of character as he fulfilled a promise to his girlfriend who had just passed away by remaining with his team instead of attending her funeral. Fans and teammates alike were astonished at his resiliency as he turned in a Heisman-worthy performance, racking up 12 tackles and a fumble recovery on the road vs a top-ten ranked Michigan State team.
When the team returned home the following week, the student body wanted to show support for their fellow classmate. In an effort organized by a philanthropic group, The New ND Nation, and the student body known as the Leprechaun Legion, over 25,000 leis were donated and brought to Notre Dame Stadium to honor Te’o’s upbringing in Hawaii. Both Notre Dame and Michigan fans throughout the stadium wore the leis and created a scene that was truly unique to Notre Dame:
“So the people here, it’s a family. It’s not a school, it’s a family. I’ve experienced that. I’ve met people that I used to watch as a little kid, and just being able to shake their hand and to know that they wore the same uniform and helmet and played for the same standards that I play for today is definitely something that you don’t experience everywhere else” ~ Manti Te’o
Now at 10-0, the Irish come home from Boston for their final home game of the season, and the chance to go undefeated at home for the first time in 14 years. But just as importantly, it will be Senior Day for the Irish, marking the end of an amazing four years in the Notre Dame career of captain Manti Te’o. To show their appreciation one last time, the students are calling for the leis to be brought back into the stadium, and the Leprechaun Legion will be giving out an additional 6,000 white and yellow leis on game day.
The Irish have earned the respect of critics all around the country this year and have given their fans a million reasons to celebrate this season. If you’re coming to Saturday’s game, Take A StaND and leave everything you’ve got in the bleachers as we close out the home slate. Come, and wear a lei for Manti.